Is Phone Addiction a Real Thing?

Read Time - 7 min

Is Phone Addiction a Real Thing?

Smartphones Everywhere

Smartphones are virtually obligatory for adults in contemporary society. As well as facilitating instant contact with family and friends, smartphones provide access to an endless range of indispensable apps and services. From social media feeds and dating platforms to email inboxes and sophisticated alarm clocks, these compact devices offer heaps of features designed to make our lives easier. 

However, the versatility and usability of modern phones mean they’re difficult to resist. Many of us spend hours scrolling social media and checking email notifications every week, especially when we have a moment or two to spare. In fact, a recent survey found that Americans check their phones 144 times a day on average, with 57% considering themselves addicted to their devices. If that weren’t troubling enough, a staggering 75% of respondents admitted to using their phone on the toilet – a less than hygienic habit!

Given the extent to which phones have taken over our lives, is it possible to develop an addiction? And, if so, where do we draw the line between high usage and addictive behaviors? In this article, we take a closer look at the evidence.

What do the experts say about phone addiction?

At present, there is no mention of smartphone addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). However, the debate surrounding the potential existence of phone addiction is ongoing among psychologists and other mental health professionals.

In a study of almost 300 college students, for example, some participants displayed symptoms associated with recognized substance-related and addictive disorders. The authors came up with a range of potential diagnostic criteria for phone addiction, including:

  • Keeping the device available throughout the day
  • Failure to resist the impulse to use the smartphone
  • Dysphoric mood, anxiety, and irritability when access to the smartphone is taken away
  • Lack of success when attempting to reduce smartphone usage
  • Excessive time and effort spent on using the smartphone, even in situations when it’s inappropriate to use the device
  • Use of the device to soothe negative feelings, such as guilt or anxiety
  • Loss of previous hobbies, interests, and relationships due to smartphone use

Some researchers are less keen on assigning the term ‘addiction’ to excessive smartphone use. This literature review, for example, suggests that addictive disorders come with a host of severe physical and psychological effects that aren’t necessarily seen in those who can’t stay off their phones. Instead, the author proposes using terms such as ‘problematic use’ to describe the very real and life-altering effects of excessive phone use. 

Despite disagreements over terminology, experts tend to agree that phones can negatively affect a person’s well-being and quality of life. As evidence surrounding compulsive phone use grows, it may feature in the DSM alongside recent additions such as internet gaming disorder (IGD).

When does phone usage become problematic?

While phone addiction may not represent an official diagnosis, the following signs could suggest you have a problematic relationship with your device:

  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep: If you struggle to sleep due to the temptation to check your phone, it’s worth taking steps to combat your behavior. In the long term, improving your sleep quality will protect your physical and mental health.
  • Isolation from others: Excessive phone use can cause people to neglect their close relationships, leading to social withdrawal and loneliness. 
  • Decline in productivity: It’s tricky to combat your to-do list when you’re constantly scrolling. 
  • Mental health issues: While anxiety and depression are caused by a wide range of factors, it’s worth considering whether excessive social media use could play a role. 
  • Accidents due to distraction: If you’ve ever walked into a lamppost or experienced a vehicle collision while checking your phone, you may have addictive tendencies that require addressing. 
  • Physical health issues: Excessive phone use can cause a host of painful issues, including eyestrain, neck strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and discomfort in the hands and thumbs. 

Preventing addictive behaviors

Most of us need to use smartphones regularly. Whether you’re picking up an urgent work call or using Google Maps for navigation purposes, your smartphone can make life much easier and more efficient. However, if your phone use starts interfering with your health and well-being, it’s time to take action.

Many people combat addictive phone use by installing apps designed to limit their time online and forcibly prevent scrolling. Other handy tips could include avoiding taking your device to bed, leaving your phone in another room while you’re working, and trying new hobbies to replace lengthy social media sessions. If you’ve tried these methods and continue to struggle, however, professional help or counseling could provide the extra support you need to overhaul your life and nurture a healthier relationship with digital technologies.  

Related Posts

ready to eliminate digital distraction?

get started with clearspace today, for free


popular posts