Smartphones are a part of everyday life. We use them to check email, text message our friends, and call our loved ones. However, smartphone use can get out of control if you don’t tame it. Here’s how to tell if you’re addicted to your smartphone.
In today’s world, smartphones are the norm. Pretty much everyone has one, and pretty much everyone uses it many times a day. Considering how often people use their smartphones, though, their can easily be a blurred line between controlled use and out-of-control use, also known as addiction.
Addiction is an interesting word, in the sense that when people see or hear that word, they most likely think of drug use or alcoholism. However, addiction can be applied to much more than just drugs and alcohol. You can be addicted to a lot of different things, and that includes smartphones.
The thing is, many users may not even know they’re addicted to their smartphones, thus they’re not receiving the help they need for weaning off their smartphone in order to have a more healthy attitude towards their mobile device.
If you think you’re addicted to your smartphone or are simply just curious about the signs of smartphone addiction, here are some things you should know, as well as how to fight your smartphone addiction and hopefully regain a healthy relationship with your mobile device.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things about smartphone addiction is whether or not you’re actually addicted to your smartphone. Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”), who’s a psychotherapist and author of The Real 13th Step: Discovering Confidence, Self-Reliance and Independence Beyond the 12-Step Programs, says that “addiction is defined by how much it interferes with your life…When the level of your phone use means you neglect or have problems with your family, your social life, your health, you are likely to be addicted. If your family constantly complains that you’re on the phone too much, or you don’t get out for social events or to exercise, your smart phone use is excessive, and probably addictive.”
A great example that Tessina provides is if a WiFi connection or a charging station was unavailable while you were out on the go, you might normally just feel disappointed, but if you were addicted to your smartphone, you might feel devastated.
You can also ask yourself some of these questions that Tessina provides to determine if you might be addicted to your smartphone and neglecting other aspects of your life:
- Can I set reasonable limits on my phone time?
- Am I on the phone for long hours for no extra pay or non-work reasons?
- Am I endangering myself by texting while driving or in other perilous situations?
- Am I ruining my relationships by compulsively sexting?
- Am I unable to commit to a relationship because I’m constantly using an app like Tinder, Bumble or Badoo?
There’s also physical health risks involved with smartphone addiction. Tessina notes that the “often sedentary nature of phone addiction means if you spend too long at it without breaks, you’ll damage your body and be at risk for repetitive stress injuries (carpal tunnel).”
Slouching over your phone for hours can strain the neck and back muscles, and “eyestrain, blurred vision, dizziness, and dry eyes can be caused by squinting; headaches and even migraines.” There’s also finger cramping and sore hand muscles caused by continuous scrolling, texting, and gaming on mobile devices. This can cause inflammation in tendons, and even lead to tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Granted, these physical health risks are probably worst-case scenario, but they’re certainly not impossible.
Kirsten Klahn, the Senior Health & Fitness Editor at The Cheat Sheet, provides a simple question to ask yourself to see if you’re majorly addicted to your smartphone: If a person can’t go 5 to 10 minutes without their device, that’s probably a clear sign.
So how do you wean yourself off of smartphone dependency? Klahn suggests setting aside 10 minutes intervals “where you don’t look at your phone, and then build on that time. Ideally, someone will build up enough time where they become able to handle being away from their phone, or avoid looking at it, for 30 minutes or more. This is a great habit to put into action before bed — it’ll help with your smartphone addiction and help you sleep better.”
Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a professor of psychology, licensed clinical psychologist and author, puts smartphone addiction in frank terms: Inability to control use.
“Craving when you cannot access the ‘addictive object.’ Wanting to do it more often and to the point that it interferes with work, school, and relationships with partner, family, and friends. Other people notice the dysfunctional behavior. You try to stop doing it and can’t cut back,” says Durvasula.
She also notes that “if a person finds that they are anxious and uncomfortable when they can’t use [their smartphone], or get irritable at such time — that is also a pattern consistent with addiction.”
To fight this addiction, Durvasula says that it “requires mindfulness, intention to change, and new habits,” just like with any addiction.
This includes setting aside smartphone-free times during the day, not using your smartphone right before bedtime (and putting your phone in a different room while you sleep or even just across the room), and even removing addictive apps such as social media and games that make your smartphone addictive in the first place.