Jonathan Berent, L.C.S.W., author of “Beyond Shyness” (Simon & Schuster) and “Work Makes Me Nervous” (Wiley), whose work is showcased on socialanxiety.com, has identified technology addiction as the gateway to an alternate reality for individuals of all ages afflicted with social anxiety and avoidant personality.
Berent explains: “The fact that texting has replaced talking as the most common form of communication characterizes a societal shutdown of the neural pathways required for verbal communication specifically, and social skills in general. Society’s massive and rapidly developing technology dependence is enabling a dramatic increase in selective mutism, which is a variation of obsessive compulsive disorder and a speaking phobia. Using technology to communicate rather than talking has become a way of life for many.”
Current statistics put selective mutism as occurring in 7 out of 1000 children.
“I have seen countless adolescents and adults with this disorder. In fact, many of my patients with public speaking anxiety, the world’s #1 phobia, identify selective mutism as the driving force behind their performance anxiety,” Berent says. “The most common phrase that I have heard from thousands of patients in forty years of practice is ‘I have nothing to say’ or ‘I don’t know what to say.’”
Individuals with social anxiety are the most at-risk for phone addiction because of their tendency to avoid direct human interaction. The degree of interactive avoidance is an important diagnostic for measuring the degree of the overall anxiety problem.
Over-dependence on technology sustains avoidance. Social anxiety is currently the most common anxiety disorder. It is driven by performance dynamics. Given society’s relentless pursuit for productivity and its technology dependence, social anxiety disorder has already reached epidemic proportions, according to Berent.