December 3, 2020

The Screen and Your Brain

It seems as though there has been a great deal of conversation around avoidance behaviors and dissociation lately and their terrible impacts.  

Dissociation and Avoidance... Friend or Foe?

First, everyone dissociates and avoids.  When a person makes the same trip over and over again (for example the drive from work to home), their brain makes a mental map.  Their brain knows the approximate speed, when to change lanes, when to exit and the trip almost becomes automated leaving the brain free to do any number of things (make a grocery list, plan a fight you won’t have with your boss, etc.).  That’s is a type of dissociation. 

Similarly, a person cannot be 100% present, 100% of the time.  There are times when the brain, body and feelings need a rest.  When the body is injured it will often release adrenaline, allowing a person to avoid pain until they have located safety.  Denial is the first stage of grief, which allows a person the bandwidth to do things like plan a funeral before the reality takes hold.

Dissociation and avoidance exist on spectrum much like most things.  They are not problems in and of themselves.  When they keep a person from achieving goals or living the kind of life they want to live, avoidance and dissociation become problems.

The Internet Effect

It wasn’t that long ago when sleep specialists, physicians, wellness experts, etc. were all begging people to save their lives by getting off of their screens.  (Remember when we were told sitting is the new smoking?).  Most people this year have been forced to stare at screens all day for work, social contact and down time. (I know what you're thinking, "DUH," just bare with me.)

At the risk of beating a dead horse, social media is bad for your mental health as well as your cognitive health.  There is plenty of research to support that social media in particular increases anxiety and depression.  

Dr Joseph Firth, Senior Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute

We have long been told that the internet puts all known information at your fingertips.  Well, good news and bad news… it is also negatively impacting cognitive function, memory and social abilities.  Dr. Firth in a study published last year has found that the structures of the brain can be modified by over use of the internet.  

I am painfully aware of the irony of writing a blog post about why I think you should get off of the internet and NOW. So if you are no longer reading, I do not blame you.

The reason I thought it was important to talk about avoidance and dissociation at the same time as internet use is because there are a lot of competing voices and information about just about everything right now. Here are some things to keep in mind, even when COVID is over:

  • It's ok to space out sometimes, it does not mean your brain is broken
  • It's ok to rest and do things that are not "productive"
  • Try to explore down time and rest that does not involve a screen
  • Remember that the internet has information, but it may not have the answers you are searching for

As always, I’m here.  If you are ready to work on having the life you want, call me and let’s get started!

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