Are you addicted to your phone? You’re not the only one wondering this. Calling it a phone addiction may be scary, although we all know one or more people that are overusing their phones.
Maybe you’re one of the phone over-users too.
Being aware of your phone use and its effects is an important first step to identifying whether you are addicted to your phone. Read on to learn more about this.
Signs of a phone addiction
How can you tell if you have a problem of overusing your phone? There is a fine line between ‘normal’ and healthy phone use and compulsive use of a smartphone.
There are several signs that your phone is taking over your life in an unhealthy way.
In general, your connection with your phone becomes a problem if it causes you to neglect face-to-face relationships, your work, school, hobbies or other important things in your life.
Some clear signs that your phone is taking over your life in an unhealthy way are:
You feel anxious, dreaded or short-tempered without your phone.
For example, if you left it somewhere, its battery’s empty or it crashed. If you feel like a part of you is missing when you can’t get to your phone, you likely have an unhealthy connection to your phone.
Phone use delays work at your job or at home.
Has all the texting, scrolling and playing games kept you away from doing your work? And now you find yourself late at the office or with laundry piling up.
A sign of excessive phone use is that it interferes with your “normal” daily life
Social life is suffering.
Now this may sound super dramatic to some, but it also includes things like losing track of what someone said because you were checking your phone (called phubbing).
Or when you’re not really present at a group gathering because you’re scrolling on social media or editing the photo you just took.
Perhaps friends and family have expressed concern about the time you spend on your phone. You may even feel like you’re out of touch with your real-life friends/family/partner because your life mostly plays out online.
You reach for your phone every moment you’re alone or bored.
Can’t spend a minute alone with your thoughts? Or can only your phone entertain you? That is a tell-tale sign of overreliance on your phone.
When you do this, you teach your brain to depend on your phone and reach for it every lonely moment.
Your phone use has caused you an accident or injury.
It could be a misstep while walking and looking at your phone, or a (near-)accident when texting behind the wheel. Or perhaps you’ve got a sore thumb or RSI from scrolling and holding your phone so much.
Some more signs:
- You check your phone at night when you’re awake
- Feeling out of control and angry or frustrated with yourself
- Lying about how much you use your phone
- Friends and family expressing concern or giving you hints/comments
- You feel like you don’t have any free time or time for hobbies or chores
- Angry or irritated if phone use is interrupted
- Phantom vibrations
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
What is phone addiction?
Phone addiction is the obsessive use of a smartphone, often fueled by a problem of overusing the internet and/or social media.
Phone addiction is also called “nomophobia”, which means the fear of being without a mobile device.
Some medical experts are reluctant to call something an addiction if there is no substance misuse involved. However, phone addiction can be viewed as a behavioral addiction, like gambling.
There are several similarities between phone addiction and compulsive gambling, such as;
- Loss of control over the behavior
- Tolerance; the need to engage in the behavior more often to get the same feeling of satisfaction
- Having real difficulty limiting the behavior
- Severe negative consequences because of the behavior
- Withdrawal symptoms or feelings of frustration, irritability and anxiety when the behavior isn’t practiced
- Relapse or picking up the habit again after periods of avoidance
Phones, apps and social media are designed to be addictive
Phone and app makers want to keep you on their platform as long as possible. That way they can collect more information and data on you. Then that data can be used for more targeted and more expensive advertising.
I’ve written before about the ways apps keep us hooked and addicted deliberately, by using several behavioral design tricks – read it here.
In short, both behavioral addiction and overusing your phone trigger dopamine release. Dopamine is a brain chemical that reinforces behaviors, both good and bad behaviors.
Effects of phone addiction
Overusing your phone can sometimes stem from underlying problems, such as stress, anxiety, depression or loneliness.
At the same time, it can worsen these problems if you use your phone as a “security blanket” to relieve you of feeling all the feels.
Staring at your phone makes you procrastinate, which increases stress.
It robs you from making meaningful face-to-face interactions with others, increasing loneliness and anxiety.
It shows you all the things you don’t have or can’t do, increasing depression.
In other words, the remedy you’re choosing makes mental issues actually worse.
A phone addiction not only leads to negative mental effects; it even affects you physically.
Phone addiction may lead to:
- Sleep deficit and sleep disturbances
- Lower concentration
- (increasing) loneliness, depression, stress and/or anxiety
- Worsening attention deficit disorders (ADD)
- Encouraging self-absorption
- Inability to think deeply or creatively
- Reduced cognition (mental processing)
- Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) in your arm, hand and/or thumb
- Neck and shoulder injuries and stiffness (there’s even a word for it, tech neck)
- Injuries while driving or walking
Seeking help for phone addiction
It is always okay to reach out for help. If you feel you don’t have control over an issue or if it concerns you in any way, don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Talk to a professional or let a loved one know you need support. Your doctor (GP) will be able to guide you to the right resources. Or you can directly reach out to a psychologist or therapist.
Do you see signs of phone addiction in people in your life? Talk about it gently and avoid making accusations.
Let’s get started on excessive phone use
Smartphones are great but they can be dangerous too.
First of all, being aware of your phone use is an important step. If your phone use has become problematic, or it feels like it’s become an addiction there are steps you can take.
Some relatively easy steps you can take are turning off your notifications and planning things to do that do not involve your phone.
Chances are you’re mostly on social media when using your phone. Grab my free social media detox guide for practical tips on how you can spend less time on social media – and more time living your real life.
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