Is Mobile Phone Addiction a Real Thing?

phone-addictionFor anyone over the age of about 30, it might feel like not so long ago that we first encountered mobile phones. Creeping into our collective consciousness over about a 5 year stretch, going from massively clunky bricks to the gotta-have-it accessory du jour, and pagers began heading into their digital retirements. By the late 90s, mobile phones were a standard among everyone from business corporate types, to brick layers, to soccer moms, teens and everyone in between.

Mobile phone use – the stats

Fast forward to 2017 and you’d be hard pressed to find someone over the age of about 6 who doesn’t have their own mobile phone, nestled quietly (or noisily) in their pocket or bag. Our mobile phones are a constant factor throughout the course of the day. Mobile now accounts for 50% of web traffic and in the US we are (on average) spending more than 2 hours per day browsing the internet via mobile. For most people, their phone is the first thing that they look at when they wake up and the last thing that they check in with before they go to sleep. We are spending more quality time with our phones than we are with our partners – which may be mildly to moderately alarming for many of us.

But how much is too much? Do you retire your mobile at the dinner table? Switch it onto airplane mode while you sleep? Would you check it in the middle of the night? If you drove half an hour and realized you’d left your phone at home would you turn back? Could you go a week without your phone? Does your mobile phone behavior look, smell, and act like addiction? Well then it probably is.

Phone addition is the real deal

The psych world has identified that yes, mobile phone addiction is most definitely a thing – although so far the community has been unable to converge on a set of diagnostic criteria. In terms of addictions, mobile phone abuse is defined as a behavioral addiction, in much the same vein as compulsive gambling, the only behavioral addiction classified in the psychological disorders diagnostic manual, the DSM 5.

So, what sort of mobile phone usage behaviors may indicate an underlying addiction? First up we have to realize that generally, an addiction is only an issue if it is causing problems within the user’s life. If there is no detrimental effect to the user or those around them, then it may not need to be addressed – perhaps just monitored.

Indicators of mobile phone addition may include:

  • Excessive mobile phone use
  • Picking up their phone when experiencing unwanted feelings
  • Restlessness or irritability when the phone is unavailable
  • Constantly checking their phone for updates
  • Increased usage to have the same effects
  • Always needing to have the phone within reach
  • Work or relationship may be suffering (or may suffer soon) from mobile usage
  • Sleeping with the phone under the pillow
  • Changes in mood directly related to mobile use
  • Checking the mobile when concentration should be elsewhere (e.g. watching a movie, driving the car, doing the weekly shopping)
  • Always checking the phone if a notification comes in, no matter what

This is by no means a definitive list of indicators for addiction, however it does list some of the most common ones.

Is it a particular mobile usage causing issues?

Mobile phone addiction may be broad use of the phone, or it could also be more targeted use. For instance, it may just be social media that a person has addictive behaviors around, or gambling websites. Thankfully, gaming sites like NoDepositFriend.com have a responsibility to monitor their customers and can help to mediate when they feel there is an issue forming – you wouldn’t see Facebook warning that you’re spending too much time on the platform.

The effects of addition

While we might see mobile phone addiction as a less dangerous addiction than, say, drugs or alcohol, there are various detrimental psychological, social, and physical effects that can result from mobile addiction.

In terms of psychological effects, these are things like mood swings, preoccupation, depression, and anxiety. Socially, the addition may have an effect on the person’s relationships with friends, family, and acquaintances, or it may be affecting their work life. As for physical health, repercussions may include eye strain, neck problems, sleep issues, plus the increased chance of having a car accident if there is a habit of checking the phone while driving.

Breaking the compulsions around phone use

While mobile phone addiction is real, it is something that can be addressed, with the compulsive behaviors conquered. It doesn’t mean giving up the mobile altogether – although this could be an exercise for a week or so to begin with, if desired. What it does require, like any other addiction, is a desire to change behavior.

Things that work in breaking the addiction cycle when it comes to mobile usage include limiting usage, for instance, switching off your phone at work, and overnight while you’re sleeping, setting the hours in which you’ll use your phone, and the activities during which you won’t look at your phone.

Another one of the most successful techniques in helping to break those bad behaviors is, funnily enough, using an app to help you out. There are a range of apps available that can help to beat the mobile phone use cycle. A new app that’s helping people overcome addiction is Onward, a service that combines smart activity-based time tracking, AI, coaching, and reward to help people see the bigger picture as it pertains to their mobile usage, and then make daily changes to help decrease use.

If you think that you or someone you know might have mobile phone addiction, then the best place to start is with chatting with a qualified addiction specialist about the issue. Addiction can be overcome with the right tools in place.