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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life

Are you a tangled mess of BlackBerrys, emails, PDAs, iPhones, laptops, and cell phones? Here’s how to untangle your life and find healthy balance.

The Paradox of Modern Life continued...

You've got to take back control, says Edward Hallowell, MD, author of CrazyBusy: Overbooked, Overstretched, and About to Snap! "The great thing about modern life is you can do so much," he says, "and the curse of modern life is you can do so much."

It's the new epidemic, Hallowell says. "People joke about being crazy busy. Sometimes they brag about it, like being busy is a status symbol. But they don't realize that it's as harmful for them as obesity or cigarette smoking."

Hopelessly Addicted to Messaging

A self-diagnosed addict, Hoffman estimates that she receives up to 500 emails and texts a day -- and stubbornly responds to every single one, even at 3 a.m.

"It's a compulsion, like an itch you have to scratch," she says. "Like Pavlov's dog, I hear the bell and I run to the BlackBerry salivating. I think I have carpal tunnel or something. I will keep texting until I'm in pain."

There's something very irresistible about an unopened message, Hallowell says. "You do get a dopamine squirt from accessing your messages. The mail used to come once a day," he says. "Now it comes every second."

There's no shut-off switch, says Beth Feldman, a Westchester, N.Y.-based entrepreneur who juggles a BlackBerry, iPhone, and cell phone from 7 a.m. to midnight and works with clients across different time zones. "There used to be boundaries," she says, "but now there are no boundaries."

This free-for-all frenzy has a real impact on relationships and families, knocking our work-life balance off-kilter.

Feldman, who is also the co-author of Peeing in Peace: Tales and Tips for Type A Moms, has caught herself checking messages during her kids' musical performances and Little League games. Her kids will ask her afterward: "Mommy, why were you on your BlackBerry?"

She is desperately trying to curb her habits. "The minute you see that flashing light, you start thinking, 'Do I need to check it?'" she says. "I'm not a brain surgeon. I'm not involved in life and death matters. I realized I have to draw a line. If I'm watching my kids' performance, it's not the end of the world if I don't return an email."

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