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Facebook could be as addictive as cocaine, study finds: five ways to tell if you’re hooked


We joke that we’re ‘addicted’ to Facebook, or are trying to go ‘cold turkey’ from our news feed, but perhaps the joke’s on us.

Facebook is said to trigger similar effects on the brain to cocaine addiction, a new study has found.

Professor Ofir Turel from California State University, asked 20 undergraduates to fill out a questionnaire to assess how addicted they were to the social networking site. Volunteers were then shown a series of images – some of which related to Facebook – and had to press a button when those appeared.

Those who hit the button quickly were the same ones who had scored highly in the addiction test.

The brains of the participants were also monitored, and the results found that the part of the brain that was involved in drug addiction - specifically cocaine -  was affected when they saw images related to Facebook.


Facebook is said to trigger similar effects on the brain to cocaine addiction

Some users, Turel says, “responded to Facebook stimuli faster than they did to road signs.”

The study, published in Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma, concludes that “technology-related 'addictions' share some neural features with substance and gambling addictions”.

Although the correlation between brain activity in cocaine and Facebook addiction was strong, Turel says that the latter is easier to overcome than cocaine:

“We speculate that that addictive behaviour in this case stems from low motivation to control the behaviour, which is due partly to the relatively benign societal and personal consequences of technology overuse, compared to, say, substance abuse.”

So, how do we know if we’re addicted to Facebook? We've pulled together five tell-tale signs...


Can you turn away?

Here are five signs to look out for:

1) Anxiety – you feel anxious and unsafe when you’re without Facebook. This might result in withdrawal when you aren’t able to use the site for a prolonged period of time – including cold sweats or restlessness and an inability to sit still.

2) You have no interest in food and sleep – only Facebook – which you constantly crave. You probably already checked Facebook three times whilst reading this article.

3) You use Facebook as a way to escape your personal problems, and you rationalise your use of it, saying it makes you feel more positive when really it’s the addiction speaking. But, deep down, you feel conflicted about the site and you think that maybe it’s not good for you.

4) You feel euphoric when you’re on Facebook, you get that familiar rush and you feel like you can take on anyone – or anything that comes your way.

5) You are easily irritable and argumentative when away from the site, and you might even steal people’s laptops and smartphones, in order to calm down. 


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