Smartphones: The Newest Addiction

The advent of the smart phone has been a great thing. We have the ability to hop online at any time to access the Internet, tap into social media, send emails or connect with friends.

The vast capability and convenience of the Smartphone is a tremendous benefit and causes no problems for most people, but some users can’t seem to put the phone down, even during school, meals, movies or time with friends. One statistic says that the average user checks his phone 190 times every day.

Although it hasn’t been officially recognized by the psychiatric world, cell phone addiction is considered to be a behavioral disorder much like an online sex addiction or an Internet gambling addiction. Some experts say this new addiction is one of the worst of our time.

Like an addiction to drugs or alcohol, cell phone addiction occurs because the user receives a pleasurable reward in the form of a message from a friend, a funny video or an email, which triggers release of dopamine in the brain. Tolerance develops when the user needs to engage in more of the activity to sustain the good feelings.

Overuse of cell phones isn’t good for the mind or body, often resulting in eye strain, blurry vision, muscle pain, neck problems, pain in the wrists and thumbs, depression, anxiety and sleep problems. Of course, using a cell phone while driving is extremely dangerous and often deadly.

Cell Phone Addiction: Are you in Denial?

The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction estimates that 10 to 12 percent of smartphone users are addicted, and many more tend to use their phones excessively and may be in denial about their smartphone dependence. The rate of addiction among young people is especially high, affecting up to half of all teens.

If you are concerned that your cell phone use may be out of control, consider these troubling signs of addiction:

  • You’ve tried to cut down on your phone time with limited success.
  • You lose all sense of time when using your smartphone.
  • You turn to your smartphone when you’re in a bad mood, or when you’re anxious, depressed, tired or bored.
  • You use your smartphone to withdraw from the world.
  • You experience irritability, anxiety, panic or other signs of withdrawal when you can’t use your phone, even for a short time.
  • You spend more time on your phone than talking face-to-face with real people.
  • You sleep with your phone next to your bed or under your pillow.
  • You repeatedly check your social medial status.
  • Your keep your phone next to your plate at meals.
  • You take your phone to the bathroom.
  • You email, text or tweet while driving.
  • You mindlessly check your smartphone throughout the day, even when you have important things to do.
  • Your cell phone use is threatening your jobs or relationships.

How to Break a Smartphone Addiction

Breaking a smartphone addiction is possible, but it requires discipline. Here are some ideas that may be helpful.

Don’t take your phone to bed. Don’t check it in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning.

Establish certain phone-free times every day. For that period of time, turn off your phone or put it in a drawer. Turn off all notifications and resist the urge to peek.

Get rid of time-sucking, useless apps and addictive games.

Limit your time on social media.

Don’t take your smartphone into restaurants, movies, or other events.

Install an app that filters email and other communications and blocks games and social media. Some apps even track your phone usage so you see how much time you actually spend on your Smartphone. Others set daily limits or lock your phone for a pre-set period of time

If your Smartphone use is out of control, consider spending some time in counseling, or at a drug and alcohol rehab facility that can help you address the problem. Counseling can help you identify underlying problems that may be contributing to your addiction.

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