Children’s brains are much more sensitive to electronics use than we realize. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take much electronic stimulation to throw a sensitive and developing brain off track. Children who are over-stimulated can present as easily agitated and “revved” up, or depressed and apathetic.
According to Dr. Victoria Dunckley in Psychology Today, a child with these symptoms may be given a mental-health diagnosis such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or ADHD, and offered corresponding treatments, including therapy and medication. But often these treatments have limitations and side effects, and the downward spiral continues.
Similar to how we treat in East Asian Medicine, the root cause of the problem can be over-stimulation from electronics. There are six physiological changes that produce mood disturbances:
- Sleep disruption and desynchronizes the body clock – Light from screen devices mimics day light, which affects melatonin levels. Stimulated by darkness, melatonin signals the body to sleep. If sleep is disrupted, other systems are affected such as hormonal imbalances and balance inflammation.
- Desensitizes the brain’s reward system – The chemical released by the brain is dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. But when reward pathways are overused, they become less sensitive, and more and more stimulation is needed to experience pleasure. However, dopamine is also critical for focus and motivation.
- Screentime produces “light at night” – Animal studies have shown that exposure to light before bedtime, even if not looking at it, may cause depression.
- Induces stress reactions – Acute and chronic stress situations have shown to produce changes in brain chemistry and hormones can cause irritability. Hyperarousal affects the frontal lobe, which is where mood regulation occurs.
- Overloads the sensory system, fractures attention, and depletes mental reserves – Poor focus leads to aggressive and explosive behavior. High visual and cognitive input contributes to low reserves. Meltdowns become a coping mechanism for depleted reserves, as they are a temporary boost.
- Reduces physical activity and “green” time – Time outdoors in nature has been shown to restore attention, lower stress and reduce aggression.
Treating children with East Asian Medicine including acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition and other energy work, assists the nervous system in moving from sympathetic, or “fight or flight”, to parasympathetic, or “rest and digest.” We tailor treatments to the specific root cause of issues, while simultaneously treating symptoms. By allowing our bodies to enter a calmer state, we are realigned with our natural state of health, or homeostasis. This leads to happier, calmer and stronger children and families.