Mental Health

Why is Social Media So Addictive for ADHDers?

Close-Up Of Person Holding Mobile Phone And Chain to symbolize social media addiction

Last Updated on

April 19th, 2024 05:38 pm

We all know someone who’s glued to their smartphone. And chances are, if you don’t, then you might have a social media addiction. Think about that for a moment.

Online content can bring us together. But too much of a good thing also causes negative mental health effects because it has been found to affect our ability to connect with others face-to-face and in real-life situations.

This lack of face-to-face interaction is one of the main reasons why we are seeing problematic internet usage and, usually, increasing rates of depression and anxiety among teens and young adults today.

So let’s take a closer look at social media addiction and how we can balance our online and offline presence for our own wellbeing.

What Is Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction is a new term that encompasses the continued use of social media platforms, despite negative consequences. Someone who has developed this addiction can experience a wide range of problems, including decreased self-esteem, worsened physical health, social isolation , and exacerbated mental health conditions.

To help online users avoid developing an addiction, psychologists recommend taking breaks from mobile technology and problematic social media as well as considering the impact your usage has on yourself and those around you. For example, if you spend more time on your devices than talking to your friends in person, this might be a sign of social media addiction.

But remember, mood modification isn’t always negative. Online content can have positive effects for people too; it’s just important to pay attention to how much time you are spending on these social network services and what their impact is on your everyday life.

How does Social Media Addiction Differ from Internet Addiction?

It is important to note that social media addiction can exist right alongside other types of excessive internet or technology addictions, such as computer or gaming addiction. The main difference between these two types of addictions is how you can use them.

People with a social networking addiction might spend hours scrolling through their feed or clicking on the newest, hottest trends while they are online. The other type of addictive behavior would be when people who are addicted to technology spend all their time playing games and looking up information.

The level of engagement with social media usage is much higher than that with computer or video games and there are more people who experience these negative effects from social media sites and too much screen time.

What Causes Social Media Addiction?

Social media usage is largely influenced by the lack of “real-life” interaction that face-to-face and in-person social interactions provide. Social media helps people feel connected, but this often comes at the expense of real-life connections and social skills. Because social media technologies provide instant gratification, online users can easily become addicted.

This creates a feeling of withdrawal when someone wants to take a break from their online life and they don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching to another social network service. This makes them more likely to constantly check their phones even though they know it’s unhealthy behavior.

People who spend too much screen time on social networking sites may also not feel like they have enough attention or validation from others in daily life. A sense of community gives a positive reinforcement many are lacking in the real world, which can give a false sense of life satisfaction and subjective well-being.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

One of the most common reasons for problematic social media addiction is the fear of missing out. FOMO is a term that was originally coined by a businessman named Patrick J McGinnings to describe the dangers of entrepreneurship in a post-9/11 world.

People typically use social networks as a way to monitor their peers’ lives and compare themselves to others, which can lead them to feel insecure or inadequate.

This insecurity can cause people to engage in bad social media habits, constantly checking their feeds for updates on the activities of their peers, friends, or acquaintances. Only then do people feel bad when they don’t get the same amount of feedback.

Smartphone Addiction

Problematic social media is among the top causes of smartphone addiction itself. Smartphones are “a technology of convenience”, and they allow us to multitask while we are on the go, which makes it easy to keep up with our social media content.

However, this convenience can cause a sense of isolation or withdrawal from one’s personal life in favor of constant connection through social media. Additionally, time spent on smartphones has been shown to increase anxiety and depression as social network users feel like their lives don’t have a “real” presence online.


Nomophobia, or the fear of being out of mobile phone contact, is also a factor in social media addiction. People who get addicted to social media may be afraid that they’ll miss something when they’re not online. They may also feel like mobile technology is the center of their world and so they need to be constantly connected with it.

People who are addicted to online content should start by limiting how much time they spend on the site each day and then slowly reducing it further until they find an amount where they can stop completely.

In addition, these individuals should actively participate in real-world activities instead of using social media as a substitute for spending face-to-face time with people and friends, which in turn improves psychological well-being not only for the addict, but their loved ones as well.

Man and woman sat on bed in pyjamas, man is doomscrolling on phone while woman looks unhappy with arms and legs crossed.

Doomscrolling can be a real problem in relationships, especially romantic ones!

Pre-existing Mental Health Problems

People who were already dealing with anxiety or depression are more likely to experience the negative effects of social media burnout on their mental health and, in some cases, can destroy relationships. This is because problematic social media and its manipulation of subjective well-being can heighten feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, which may trigger depression and anxiety in those who are already struggling with these difficult conditions.

On the other hand, people who do not have any pre-existing mental health problems may be able to balance their offline and online lives better than those who suffer from a mental illness. This means that someone without any existing mental health issues should be able to use social media without experiencing negative side effects on their psychological well-being.

Social Media and The Brain

Social networking stimulates the brain’s reward center. The more time you spend on these sites, the more your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that can lead to addiction and has been associated with feelings of euphoria. This means that when you’re using these sites, you get a rush or high from seeing likes, comments, and shares.

It also means that social media users are constantly looking for validation in their posts, which can lead to confusion about what it really takes to express themselves authentically. These online content sites are engineered by problematic social media companies like Facebook and Bytedance to keep you hooked. They provide a constant stream of new social media content every second without fail.

So if you spend too much time on these sites browsing irrelevant social media content, this constant demand for engagement can cause feelings of anxiety and depression because your brain isn’t getting the natural stimulation it needs.

The Dopamine Loop

Social media content can be addictive because the brain’s reward system releases dopamine, which makes us happy.

Neurological and physiological functions are affected by dopamine. It’s the same chemical that our brain releases when we do things like eating, having sex, or gambling; all are prime examples of other behavioral addictions.

For some people, engaging with social media apps causes their brains to produce more dopamine, which makes them feel good. But it also reinforces their need to satisfy the feeling again next time, which requires more usage as the brain becomes more resilient to the action.

close up of man's hands holding smartphone in left hand and lit cigarette in right hand.

Social media addiction triggers the same parts of the brain as illegal substances!

How Social Media Addiction Affects Mental Health

Social networking addiction, despite its gratifying effects and ability to generate euphoria, negatively affects mental health because it provides a sense of false satisfaction and connection. People who feel lonely are more likely to spend time on social networking sites than those who don’t feel lonely.

Additionally, when you’re spending too much time in the social media domain, it can cause a negative feedback loop where you constantly seek validation from your online friends and peers. It’s this model of addiction that focuses on building social capital which creates feelings of loneliness in the real world.

Another problem is that people may be relying on technology gratifications as an escape. People often use a social network service when they’re feeling anxious or upset in real-life, turning to their phone or computer screen instead of going out into the world or talking with others face to face. If you rely on your phone or computer for solace, this could have lasting effects on your mental health.

Poor Self-Esteem

People who spend excessive amounts of time on social sites may also suffer from poor self-esteem. This stems from the inability to connect with others and the feeling that they are not living up to the expectations of others. Poor self-esteem can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness which can then cause people to spend more time on social media.

Excessive use of social platforms can lead to negative mental health effects because it has been found to negatively affect our ability to connect with others face-to-face and in real-life situations. This lack of face-to-face interaction is one of the main reasons why we are seeing increasing rates of depression and anxiety among teens and young adults today.

Reduced Working or Academic Performance

If you’re suffering from social media burnout, you might find yourself skipping class or missing assignments because you’re so focused on what’s happening on Facebook or Instagram. You might even start procrastinating on schoolwork because you know you’ll get caught up in checking your notifications.

This can have serious consequences for your academic performance. Students who check their phones during class are less engaged and perform worse academically than those who do not.

Also, if you’re addicted, it can make you feel like you’re always being watched by other people. This can make you feel uncomfortable around others and prevent you from developing friendships outside your social network.

Recognizing A Social Media Addiction

The most common signs that you may be suffering from social media burnout and addiction are feeling anxious or depressed when you don’t visit social networks for a while, shying away from real-life interactions with others because of platforms like Snapchat, and a tendency to feel more connected when you’re scrolling through your BeReal feed.

It’s important to recognize these signs and seek help if they occur. If you can’t stop using social media, and it’s having a negative impact on your mental health, consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

How Much is Too Much?

If you spend hours every day doomscrolling through social networking sites such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or Pinterest, you may want to deactivate your accounts and spend time offline. People who spend most of their waking hours online are less happy because they compare themselves unfavorably against others, which eventually results in social media burnout.

While it’s true that excessive use of social media can cause depression and internet addiction as a whole, it’s important to remember that everyone consumes social media differently.

Some people love posting pictures of their physical activity at the gym on their social media accounts, while others prefer to read news stories. There’s no single way to measure whether someone is spending too much time on social network sites, as subjective well-being can go both ways.

teenage girl on phone lying in bed in dark while phone lights her face

Teenage smartphone addiction and its side effects are reaching epidemic levels.

But if you find yourself feeling down and wondering if you’re spending too much time on the Internet, ask yourself what you like doing and don’t like doing. Then, make sure to balance those activities with things you enjoy doing.

For example, if you’re constantly checking out photos of cute dogs on Instagram, maybe you should spend more time exercising or reading books. Or, if you hate cooking, perhaps you should focus on learning something new.

Then, once you figure out what works best for you, commit to sticking to your plan. You may even consider setting up a digital detox period where you avoid problematic internet usage and social media burnout by switching off altogether.

Controlling Your Social Media Use

If you find that your social media use is affecting your well-being, there are steps you can take to limit and control it. One of the first things to do is to reduce the time you spend online. A current study found that a week away from social platforms reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

To decrease your time spent on social network sites, try using built-in digital wellbeing features on your smartphone. These apps will help block out notifications for certain apps for a certain amount of time. This will allow you to focus more on real-life interactions and conversations with friends and family members instead of scrolling through Instagram all day long.

Also, use this time wisely. If you’re spending too much time online, make sure that the hours are spent doing something productive rather than scrolling through your feed or typing away at work. Social interaction shouldn’t only happen when we’re online, and if it only happens when we’re connected to Facebook or Twitter, then we’re not engaging in offline activities to nurture healthy relationships.

For those who are still struggling, consider localized social media addiction treatment where you can visit a professional. They will be able to tailor a program to your individual requirements and free you from the shackles of doomscrolling.

Social Media Addiction Effects Change Lives

Social media addiction isn’t just a problem for teens any more. It affects adults as well. So, if you find yourself struggling with an unhealthy relationship with social media, it’s time to get back into reality. Social media addiction treatment is out there for those who need it, but for many, starting with a few small steps mentioned above can make a huge difference.

Remember: Everyone has different needs and wants. The key is finding ways to meet them without sacrificing other aspects of your life. After all, there are many huge benefits to social media, as long as it’s not overused.

Check out more of our articles for life-changing advice and inspiration!

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Rob Butler
30-Something Millennial with ADHD and suspected Autistic and Dyspraxic. Thought leader behind this website. Big visions of a better future for everyone, but forgets where he is half the time.Loves Rugby, his kids, and anything silly. Hates U2 and Marmite.

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