Smartphones have become ubiquitous, with users often walking along sidewalks or sitting in restaurants with their heads bent over the screens. For many people, smartphone use has become less of a convenience and more of an obsession, taking time away from real-life activities and face-to-face interactions with family and friends.
The phenomenon has become so common that many people are asking if smartphone use is an addiction or just an ingrained habit.
What Constitutes Smartphone Addiction?
The compulsive use of smartphones and the anxiety felt when unable to use one has been given the name “nomophobia,” for “the fear of being without a cell phone.” It affects thousands of users in the United States and many more worldwide.
The addiction is characterized by several symptoms:
- Incessant phone use
- Repeated checking for emails and texts
- A feeling of panic when the phone is lost
- Anger and irritation at loss of battery power
- Extreme anxiety when not permitted to use the phone at will
In some cases, the compulsion to be connected and working can lead to severe stress reactions, with physical symptoms that require emergency care.
What the Science Shows
One study from Rice University found the 21 of 34 participants in a study of smartphone addiction reported themselves as addicted, repeatedly checking their phones throughout the day and feeling anxious when they were unable to do so. That figure is 62 percent, over half of the participants in the study, and the results did not show any specific differences in the demographics of the addiction.
Other studies found that addictive smartphone use could have dangerous psychological effects on adolescents, including anxiety, aggression, attention deficit problems and insomnia. The constant use of smartphones has also been associated with decreased association with family and friends in real life, which can lead to feelings of isolation that can reinforce the addiction.
Breaking the Addiction
Mental health professionals are beginning to advise periods of digital detox for individuals exhibiting signs of smartphone addiction. This process requires unplugging from electronic equipment for a three-day period. This could include taking a weekend vacation in the woods, where cell phone coverage is unavailable. Individuals can then begin to re-learn the idea that life does not necessarily require constant communication over long distances with others. During this period, individuals can eat healthy, meditate, reflect and commune with nature.
Exercise has also been found to be helpful in re-connecting people to their bodies and their own presence in the real world. They can take the time to re-examine their emotions, needs and fears and adjust their use of phones for work or play to healthy levels.
In extreme cases, individuals may choose to enter a 30- to 90-day smartphone addiction treatment program to address underlying psychological issues, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism or other issues that may be contributing to the obsessive need to communicate by smartphone.
If you believe you might be addicted to smartphone use and your attempts to cut back on use have been unsuccessful, consider counseling or treatment to get your behavior under control.
Give us a call or come visit our Residential Treatment Center In Los Angles California