The pandemic changed the way many of us go about our lives—grocery shopping and game night with our friends became activities that required planning and protocol. And for many of us, work and school went from time we spent surrounded by other people to time spent isolated in our homes.
While we strove to protect ourselves from Covid-19, other parts of our health suffered.
Dr. Asif Uddin of KC Psychiatrist says the past year has sent more and more Kansas Citians into his office for things like anxiety and depression, stemming largely from the overuse of technology.
“People seem to have hit that tipping point,” Uddin says. “They might have been a little anxious in their younger years, but now reacclimating to society as they go back into a work setting, they’ve almost forgotten how to interact with people in person or what that actually feels like versus being behind a computer screen or talking on a phone.”
Uddin says that our sedentary lifestyle during the pandemic and dependence on technology to function became easier than going out for some people. Many of his patients have developed health problems such as obesity, substance abuse and social anxiety. Others have become so obsessively focused on the state of the world they would rather look at it from behind their computer screens than go out into it.
“I’ve had a lot of [patients] developing social anxiety or continuing to isolate despite the opportunity to be able to get out and interact with people,” Uddin says. “I have some patients who aren’t able to leave the house because they are so nervous about interacting with people.”
The problem is even more pervasive in children. Children are not getting the necessary socialization they need to develop. Instead, during the isolation of the pandemic, they have been exposed to unrealistic social media expectations, cyberbullying and more. According to. Uddin, life behind a screen has become the only existence they know.
“They’ve been removed from society when it’s the most crucial period to acclimate,” Uddin says. “Their sole means of interacting with people has become online.”
The increased use of technology among children has also kept them from forming healthy coping mechanisms, especially as they are being thrust back out into society after being away for so long. These combined factors have made the switch to technology and back again hard on children.
“Anxiety and depression are the two major things I’ve seen affect children, far more than adults,” Uddin says.
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While decreasing technology use and braving the outside world again after so many months of isolation can be daunting for many, Uddin says he believes it’s the only way to get better.
“It’s a matter of making a lifestyle change that’s been harder to make [since the beginning of the pandemic], even though things are opening up and opportunities are presenting themselves,” Uddin says. “That’s going to take time. This has been kind of a shock, from being such an interactive society to being the opposite.”