Tag Archives: Oakland CBT

Is Social Media Damaging our Relationships?

The excitement you feel when your social media post is “liked,” or otherwise validated, is due to the release of dopamine in your brain, which is also released during sex or a delicious meal. Increasingly, our brains are becoming conditioned and rewired to associate this boost of happiness with our online behaviors like social media, online games, email or aimless surfing.

Unsurprisingly, this leads to a host of emotional and social problems. But how serious is our dependency on mobile internet and social media, and what can we do to live with it in peace?

How Pervasive is Internet Addiction?

Internet addiction affects nearly 6 percent of the global population. Symptoms of online addiction include anxiety, depression, euphoric feelings around devices, lost sense of time, weight gain and the avoidance of work. It also has serious ramifications for those in romantic relationships. Excessive usage of Twitter and Facebook has been linked to cheating, breakups and divorce, often rooted in conflicts over time spent on these platforms.

How Do We Get Hooked?

Healthy self-soothing behaviors such as  exercising, reading, or meditating help us build effective coping strategies in the long run . Avoidance behaviors are automatic behaviors that  we do in order to try to get rid of distressing emotions such as boredom, insecurity, loneliness, shame, hurt, or uncertainty. internet addiction and social media - Oakland therapistThese behaviors usually make us feel better in the moment, but lead to more pain in the long run. Avoidance behaviors are short term solutions to long term problems and end up exacerbating our pain in the long run. These behaviors may include include drinking,  drug use, isolating, internet addiction, yelling, overeating, gossiping, and many others. Since similar chemicals are released when you get a “like” on Facebook and when you take drugs, many are turning to using the internet and social media as a way to escape negative feelings, like boredom or loneliness.

However, when we don’t cope with those feelings, we rob ourselves of the opportunity to better our lives. People who are able to tolerate uncomfortable emotions have more behavioral flexibility, they are better creative problem solvers, and are more likely to engage in adaptive coping responses such as reaching out to friends or make new acquaintances.

Online Identity Confusion

Beyond this addictive chemical reaction, another key issue with heavy internet use is in users identifying more with online identities than real life. Online, you my find it easy to frame your life as one of total fulfillment, and it’s likely many in your network are doing the same. Because of this, it’s often easier to interact online, as it is simple to avoid awkward or vulnerable moments that reveal our insecurities and problems.

And there’s evidence that this is leading to an increasing preference to online interactions over those in real life. According to one study, one in four spend more time on social media than in real-life social situations, and as many as 11 percent of adults prefer to spend a weekend communicating online than socializing.

When Social Media Makes us Feel Bad About Ourselves

Beyond their addictive properties, there are many occasions where social media, in particular makes us feel bad. My clients frequently tell me that Facebook makes them sad, and research bares this out. According to a sturdy from the University of Michigan, the more participants used Facebook, the worse they felt. This, researchers said, is likely due to social comparisons. You most likely have experienced social comparisons when looking your social network’s glamorous photos, happy messages and feel your own life pales in comparison. Repeated exposure to these comparisons can lead to unhealthy beliefs about our self worth.

 How to Use the Internet Mindfully

  • Though there are serious concerns, there’s no need to cancel your social media accounts or throw your cell phone in a lake. There are ways to live mindfully with the internet. We can enjoy its benefits without it draining us of our self-esteem and free time. Try these tips today to live with the internet in peace:
  • Track the amount of time you spend on social media and in real-life interactions.
  • Call a friend. Even if you haven’t spoken to this person in months, ask to spend some time together.
  • Make a point of silencing your mobile device when around your friends.
  • Pay attention to how often you pull out your mobile device out of necessity, and how often out of impulse, or urge. Note the emotions you experience.
  • Note the overall purpose of your social/mobile usage. What are you trying to accomplish with each post, text or interaction? Ask yourself if the message feels genuine.
  • What do you value in your relationships?
  • Are you behaving authentically—like you would in-person—or are you trying to put on a good face?
  • Limit how frequently you check your email and phone.

 

After you recognize which parts of your connected life make you feel good, and which make you feel bad, you’ll feel more confident in cutting out the latter. You’ll begin to feel more power over your device, rather than the other way around.

Schemas and Relationships

According to Jeffrey Young, schemas are core beliefs and stories that we have constructed about ourselves and our relationships in the world. A schema is a deep-rooted cognitive structure or framework that helps us organize information and make sense of the world. A schema is like a lens through which we view the world, organize our experiences, and interpret events.

These are stories that we have constructed about ourselves throughout our life. These stories are like lenses that distort our perceptions and experiences with others and can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies in relationships. Schemas develop in childhood from early experiences we have with our family and peers.

schemas and cognitive therapy, Oakland and San Francisco

Our minds are built to create cause-and-effect relationships and make connections between events, even if there isn’t much of a correlation. Making these correlations is advantageous in many ways, but schemas can become maladaptive when we take random events in the world and make causal connections about what these events mean about our identity and ourselves. These stories were developed in childhood from early experiences where our basic needs were not met. We build stories and theories about ourselves as to why it is that our needs did not get met. We form these schemas as we attempt to interpret events in the world and make sense of why they happened. For example, if you grew up with a mother who was depressed and who was inconsistently available, you might develop an abandonment/instability schema and build a story that you can’t rely or depend on others to be there for you consistently. You may even convince yourself that if you were just different or if you were better, then your needs would have been met, you may build a story that your emotions are too much and that you are the cause of your mother’s depression.

Schemas are like sunglasses that distort how we take in information and how we make meaning of events. For example, an individual with an abandonment schema is predisposed to interpreting others as rejecting or abandoning, and is more likely to reach the conclusion that they are being abandoned even if there is little evidence to suggest it. These lenses distort our perceptions and experiences with others and can lead to self-defeating patterns in relationships. Schemas are hard to give up because they help us organize our experience and create an illusion of safety and predictability in the world. They are hard to challenge because they create the impression that we can make predictions about the outcome of our relationships and protect ourselves.

portrait of amazed man with 3d glasses

Maladaptive schemas may lead to self-defeating themes and patterns that continue to repeat throughout our adult life. These schemas that were formed in childhood continue to get triggered throughout our life in stressful situations and the way you respond when you get triggered can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once a schema gets triggered, it brings up specific powerful, automatic, and conditioned thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

Schemas can influence interpersonal behaviors and interfere with our ability to satisfy basic needs in current relationships. When our schemas get triggered in relationships we tend to use certain coping behaviors, which we have learned in childhood, to try to control or block the pain connected to our schemas. These coping behaviors can end up reinforcing and maintaining our schemas by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, if someone with an abandonment schema gets triggered, he/she may cope with this experience by seeking excessive reassurance, getting clingy, acting jealous and possessive, or by blaming or accusing. These coping behaviors may actually increase the likelihood that others will withdraw or abandon. Reducing these maladaptive behaviors can help you heal as you learn new more effective ways of getting your emotional needs met, both inside the session with your therapist and in your everyday life. The goal of Schema Therapy is to help you identify the coping behaviors you do that damage your relationships and substitute these behaviors with more effective responses. Schema therapy aids you in healing your early maladaptive schemas, the stories you have constructed about yourself, and breaking self-defeating patterns in relationships.

To read more information about specific schemas click here