Quick Ways to Manage Screen Compulsion

GoodTherapy | Quick Ways to Manage Screen CompulsionAccording to William G Allyn, Professor of Medical Optics in Rochester University, “More than 50 percent of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is devoted to processing visual information.“ Vision is such a dynamic element that involves an interplay of our brains.  It involves half of our cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain, to ensure our vision.  For those who can see images through their eyes, our brain works within an extraordinarily complex relationship to ensure we understand what we see and perceive readiness to move accordingly if need be.  Our minds are primed for visual content as long as we are able to see.   

We absorb what our environment presents to us and formulate a cursory understanding of what we need to do.  However, some content on our screens hijacks that process and allows our body to flood with neurochemicals and respond by shifting away from the parasympathetic relaxed state to the sympathetic arousal state.  This content augments our understanding of our world and reshapes our associations around us to present a high-stress environment. If we have visual acuity, that is to say, if we are able to see with or without visual aids, we are susceptible to the content inundating our screens. 

What is Screen Addiction?

Dr. Ranjit Singh, a Department of Electronics Communication Engineer at Ajay Kumar Garg Engineering College, India, elucidates in his article, “Peris of Screen Addiction” (2022),  

“Screen addiction is similar to addiction to drugs, gambling, and alcoholism. It doesn’t injure health like alcohol, nevertheless its ‘toxicity’ affects sub-consciousness and relationship with the world.”   

He goes on to report,  

“Dopamine levels rise when we’re just about to find reward and diminish after we receive it. Resultantly, to get us to do anything, evolution uses this chemical process to induce anticipation, motivation, and pain alleviation. Based on this phenomenon, technology giants like Apple and Google spent decades commercializing our attention and advancing addictive design. When one is favored by luck, dopamine gets released. For example, look at the randomness of the Facebook feed. All social media apps today use “digital confetti” to give you what you want at random intervals. The power of the dopamine system is experienced by drug addicts and smokers. Habit-forming drugs affect the dopamine system by dispersing it more and more than usual. Overusage is end result of wanting more and more pleasure to feel normal.” 

A significant correlation emerged between depression, self-esteem, and internet addiction.” (Bahrainian, SA, 2014). A 2015 study of 319 university students at Süleyman Demirel University “revealed that the Smartphone Addiction Scale scores of females were significantly higher than those of males. Depression, anxiety, and daytime dysfunction scores were higher in the high smartphone use group than in the low smartphone use group. Positive correlations were found between the Smartphone Addiction Scale scores and depression levels, anxiety levels, and some sleep quality scores” (Demirci, K, et al, 2015). Another study performed in 2018 examining 5003 Korean adults aged 19-49 conducted by the Catholic University of Korea Identified, “Internet addiction (IA) and smartphone addiction (SA) exert significant effects on depression and anxiety…Another interesting finding was that SA exerted stronger effects on depression and anxiety than IA.

This leads us to speculate that IA and SA have different influences on mental health problems. (Kim, Y., et al, 2018).  Lastly, for the sake of a smaller section examining the influence of smartphone and internet addiction, a study of 1103 adolescents aged 13-17 in Lebanon identified that “40.0% had occasional/frequent problems, and 3.6% had significant problems because of Internet use. The results of a stepwise regression showed that higher levels of aggression, depression, impulsivity, and social fear were associated with higher internet addiction whereas an increased number of siblings and a higher socioeconomic status were associated with lower internet addiction. (Sahar, O., et al, 2019).   

Smartphone usage has also been shown to affect our sleep and productivity.  

“Late night use of smartphones for work may interfere with sleep, thus leaving employees depleted in the morning and less engaged during the workday.”. (Lanaj, K., Johnson, R. E., & Barnes, C. M. 2014) 

What can we do to stem the tide of screen compulsion? 

While researching, for my book, The Visual Diet, I came across different methods to tend to screen compulsions. Many temporarily halt access to content while having a simple way to bypass it. Currently, smartphones have a “Do Not Disturb” feature that is just a click away. These are helpful if the individual has the bandwidth to ride the wave of compulsion.  

When others just cannot make the decision for themselves, additional apps may be needed to block problematic apps while still being able to use the phone. For Android users, the Lock Me Out app has this capability while iPhone users could use Opal 

There is another method that could be beneficial for many, and it’s quite simple: change your screen color to grayscale. Black and white. Sounds simple and it is. Personally, I found some interesting benefits to it. Since we are more prone to experience the world enriched in vibrant colors, the attention to the surrounding experience can shift to provide more dopamine from our surroundings.  

I even took it a step forward and put all my screens in grayscale for the whole day, every day for a week now. Now, when I walk my dog, the colors around me feel much more vibrant. Coming from someone who has color-deficient vision, it has allowed me to reexperience the world with more beauty. My hope is that this could do that for you as well. I don’t plan on continuing forever, except for my phone, but will reengage with grayscale when I need more focus.  



Rochester review :: University of Rochester. (n.d.). https://www.rochester.edu/pr/Review/V74N4/0402_brainscience.html 

Singh, R. (2022). Perils of Screen Addiction. AKGEC International Journal of Technology, 13, 40-44. 

Bahrainian SA, Alizadeh KH, Raeisoon MR, Gorji OH, Khazaee A. Relationship of Internet addiction with self-esteem and depression in university students. J Prev Med Hyg. 2014 Sep;55(3):86-9. PMID: 25902574; PMCID: PMC4718307. 

Demirci, K., Akgönül, M., & Akpinar, A. (2015). Relationship of smartphone use severity with sleep quality, depression, and anxiety in university students, Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 4(2), 85-92. doi: https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.4.2015.010 

Kim, Y. J., Jang, H. M., Lee, Y., Lee, D., & Kim, D. J. (2018). Effects of internet and smartphone addictions on depression and anxiety based on propensity score matching analysis. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(5), 859. 

Lanaj, K., Johnson, R. E., & Barnes, C. M. (2014). Beginning the workday yet already depleted? Consequences of late-night smartphone use and sleep. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 124(1), 11-23. 

Obeid, Sahar PhD,†,‡; Saade, Sylvia PharmD§; Haddad, Chadia MPH; Sacre, Hala PharmD,¶; Khansa, Wael MD#; Al Hajj, Roula MSc†; Kheir, Nelly MSc∗∗; Hallit, Souheil PharmD, MSc, MPH, PhD¶,#. Internet Addiction Among Lebanese Adolescents: The Role of Self-Esteem, Anger, Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety and Fear, Impulsivity, and Aggression—A Cross-Sectional Study. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 207(10):p 838-846, October 2019. | DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000001034 



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