top of page

Symptoms of Media Addicts Anonymous International

MAA’s Understanding of Media Addiction


We view media addiction as an illness similar to alcoholism. Like drugs and alcohol, media addiction is both a physical and mental dis-ease. Here are the reasons we believe this.


  1. Media changes and destabilizes the brain. The overuse of media destabilizes the prefrontal area of our brains. This is the area responsible for remembering details, planning, and prioritizing tasks. When we compulsively use media, our frontal lobes go "offline," weakening our ability to stop using media when we need to move on or go to bed. 

  2. Over time a mental obsession develops. After periods of extreme overuse of media, we eventually develop an "obsession of the mind."  An obsession of the mind is an idea that overcomes all other ideas to the contrary. It doesn't make any difference how badly we want to stop using media, the obsession of the mind will become so strong that it will overcome any ideas to try to stop or stay away from media. Our minds actually lead us to believe it's okay to use our media, even after a huge blackout binge. Each time we get on our alcoholic media we trigger this mental obsession and we can't stop.

  3. Media also affects the pleasure center of the brain triggering a release of dopamine—Like drug addiction, more and more media is needed to induce the same pleasurable dopamine hit, eventually creating a dependency. Therefore, we see media as a mind-altering and mood-altering drug. Media becomes our dopamine high or our dope.


Because of the mental obsession, the brain-numbing response to media, and the chemical response to media, we have both a mental and physical craving for media and a mental and physical intolerance much like alcohol and drugs. We can't safely use media because of the body allergy and dopamine high, and we can't stay sober because of our mental obsession, therefore, we believe that we have become absolutely powerless over addictive forms of media.


Doctor Silkworth in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous observed this same phenomenon in his alcoholic patients. We have found, word for word, that the same holds true for the real media addict. He writes back in 1936: "Men and women drink (use media) essentially because they like the effect produced by alcohol (media). The sensation is so elusive that, while they admit it is injurious, they cannot after a time differentiate the true from the false. To them, their alcoholic (media) life seems the only normal one. They are restless, irritable, and discontented unless they can again experience the sense of ease and comfort that comes at once by taking a few drinks (getting on their media)—drinks (media) that they see others taking with impunity. After they have succumbed to the desire again, as so many do, and the phenomenon of craving develops, they pass through the well-known stages of a spree, emerging remorseful, with a firm resolution not to drink again. This is repeated over and over, and unless this person can experience an entire psychic change there is very little hope of recovery.”


Recovery is transforming mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual states of being, which we refer to as having a psyche change. We create this psychic change by sincerely and consistently working the 12 Steps and the 12 Tools of MAA.

The Signs and Symptoms of Media Addiction

  1. Dissatisfaction with everyday life—We depend on media as a way to avoid emotional discomfort, boredom, pain, and problems. Media has become our main source of relief, reward, relaxation, recreation, and relationships.

  2. Mental obsession—We have a fear of missing out so we want our media with us at all times. We are preoccupied with what's trending in the news and social media. We lose ourselves in gossip, too much information, and the absorption of negative media, all of which result in constant unrest and agitation.

  3. Depression, shame, and hopelessness—We feel depressed, shameful, and guilty about the amount or type of media we are consuming. We want to stop, but we don't believe we can live without our media dependency. This hopelessness has caused some of us to have suicidal thoughts or prolonged periods of depression and anxiety.

  4. Compare and despair—We compare ourselves with what we see in magazines, films, TV, and social media. We try to create a persona that other people will admire, but end up feeling despair when we can't live up to those ideals. We are compelled to follow seemingly perfect people on social media even though we know it repeatedly makes us feel inferior.

  5. Isolation—We prefer to be alone with our media rather than socialize. When we are with other people, we often become distracted by our devices. Isolation causes us to avoid those activities in life that used to bring us joy and connection.

  6. Fantasizing—Rather than having meaningful relationships with real people, we turn to media to satisfy our need for romance, intimacy, and sexual fantasy. We end up feeling a deeper loss of intimacy with others which leads to more deprivation and loneliness than before.

  7. Risky behavior—We will endanger our health, life, or someone else's life to get our media fix. We may drive while sending text messages, overeat while bingeing on TV, or deprive ourselves of sleep while using all forms of media.

  8. Time irreverence—Time is the only commodity we can never get back. When grazing or bingeing on media, we lose track of time and forget what is truly important in our lives. Media takes priority over
    everyone and everything.


  9. Avoiding our life's purpose—We abandon creative endeavors, intellectual pursuits, and prioritization of our goals because we focus on passive media consumption instead. We jeopardize our income, education, careers, and overall success by procrastinating and repeatedly using media during study and work hours. We lose faith in ourselves and hope for the future.

  10. Disconnection from our bodies and nature—We become detached from our body and do not fully enjoy all of our senses. We fail to meet our body’s basic needs for rest, sleep, exercise, and good nutrition. We hide indoors with media while avoiding the nourishment and beauty of the natural world.

  11. Physical ailments—With prolonged media usage we experience backaches, neck pain, headaches, disturbances in sleep, digestive issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, and vision problems.

  12. Withdrawal symptoms—When we stop using our addictive media, we experience withdrawal and detoxification symptoms. Any time we give in to our compulsion to use our addictive media, we reignite the “craving” and find it increasingly more difficult to stop again.

bottom of page