Technological Addiction Takes Center Stage at Urban Mental Health Conference in Newark

NEWARK – More than 150 medical professionals, students, community leaders, and advocates attended the Seventh Annual Urban Mental Health Conference on Friday, Nov. 1, at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) in Newark.

Official say the theme of this year’s Urban Mental Health Conference was technological addiction.

“Technological addiction is emerging as a new frontier in our field,” said Dr. Petros Levounis, chair of the department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. “This conference gave medical experts and participants an opportunity to discuss scientific evidence and ask profoundly thought-provoking questions.”

“The signs of a technological addiction may be difficult to identify, especially in young people. After all, spending hours in front of screens every day is quickly becoming the norm,” said Dr. James Sherer, a third-year resident in the department of psychiatry at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

“Knowing when to treat technological addictions, and when not to treat them, will be a point of discussion in the mental health community for years to come.”

The Seventh Annual Urban Mental Health Conference featured a variety of esteemed panelists, including Drs. Petros Levounis, James Sherer, Rafael Coira, Heather Wurtz, Donya Nazery, and more.

Panelists presented updates on a wide range of technological addictions, such as internet gaming, cybersex, online shopping, and social media. The conference also gave attendees the opportunity to earn CME credits.

The organizers of this year’s Urban Mental Health conference chose the theme of technological addiction, due to the profound impact the problematic use of technology can have on an individual’s mental health and well-being, including those who live in urban communities, such as the areas served by NJMS.

Electronic communication has connected families, strengthened friendships, and even sparked marriages. Yet for some, a reliance on electronic devices can have unintended consequences.

Signs and symptoms of a technological addiction include:

The need to repeat the behavior at higher amounts and more frequently to attain the same effect. The intense discomfort that occurs when the behavior is discontinued. The endless preoccupation and lack of interest in anything else in life other than the addictive agent or behavior. The external consequences of the addiction on finances, health, interpersonal relationships, or legal affairs.

“We are at the cusp of a new era of diagnosis and treatment of people who suffer from technological addiction,” Dr. Levounis added.

“Most people do not know, or believe, that an all-encompassing obsessive use of social media, texting, sexting, emailing, gaming, gambling, or e-baying can lead to a bona fide addiction. This conference creates opportunities for experts to develop new solutions to treat these emerging psychiatric conditions.”