Cell-phone addiction is increasing rapidly as more people own and use smartphones on a regular basis for a variety of needs. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the PEW Research Center, nearly 64% of American adults own a cell phone. Many are cell-phone dependent, meaning they do not have an alternate phone or Internet connection in their homes. Currently, smartphones can be used for most daily tasks or interpersonal interaction. We can make voice, video and written communication, take photographs, play games, watch movies, get news, information about health conditions, conduct banking, job searches and submit applications. In fact, 46% of cell-phone owners say they “couldn’t live without it” regardless of broadband Internet availability. This detail indicates cell-phone dependence is based on some other factor. One possible alternate factor is social media use, which studies indicate is driven by a desire to connect socially. It has also been shown to affect the same areas of the brain as drugs, and is just as addicting. Scientists say that the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain during social media activities is even more intense than heroin use. It’s no surprise then when in a recent Gallup poll, 81% of cell-phone users said they keep their phones near them during waking hours, and 64% keep phones within reach while sleeping. We may wish to cut back, but continue to check our phones incessantly. Many people check their phones upon waking, even before they say good morning to their significant other. And young adults reportedly check their phones every few minutes. In fact, we use cell phones so much they have become an extension of self, like an extra appendage. And who wants to lop off an arm or leg?
Identify and Break Your Cell-Phone Addiction
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not formally recognize cell-phone addiction. But accepted signs and symptoms of cell-phone addiction are similar to other compulsive behaviors or substance use disorders. They include:
- Preoccupation or compulsion with cell-phone use
- Tolerance such that use is continually increased over time
- Loss of control to reduce or stop cell-phone use regardless of the negative consequences
- Withdrawal symptoms such as irritation, anxiety and depression when cell-phone use is stopped
So how can you break your cell-phone addiction? The same way as other behavioral disorders are handled. And learning and developing coping skills that manage desire, and control urges, is an important step. The following five actions could help.
- Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. Resist the urge to check your phone and social media immediately upon waking. Use a regular alarm clock and leave your phone charging in another room so it is not easy to reach. Make sure to greet your significant other and take care of hygiene before checking your phone.
- Set limits for usage. Set specific goals to limit use, like, “I will only spend 30 minutes on social media today and I will not use my phone during meal time.”
- Turn your phone off. It may be hard to leave your phone at home for the day, but you can start small by turning the phone off for a specified about of time, say two hours. Over time, you can progress to leaving the phone off for longer periods, leaving it in the car when at social events, and eventually leaving it at home altogether.
- Practice mindfulness. Practice deep breathing and being present in the moment. Acknowledge your emotions and deal with them. Look around at your surroundings and take time to appreciate things you may have taken for granted while consumed by activities on your cell phone.
- Seek assistance. Enlist the help of family and friends to support you and offer healthy distractions such as physical and social activities that don’t involve cell phones. It may also be a good idea to talk to your doctor about your concerns.
Sources: https://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/ – U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5076301/ – Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review https://www.akademiai.com/doi/pdf/10.1556/JBA.3.2014.015 – The invisible addiction: Cell-phone activities and addiction among male and female college students https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458066/ – Gambling Disorder and Other Behavioral Addictions: Recognition and Treatment https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/smartphone-addiction – Smartphone Addiction Nomophobia- fear of being without your smartphone- affects 40% of the population