Cell Phone Addiction; What It Is and How to Overcome it
Have you ever told yourself that you would get on your phone for “just 10 minutes”, and two hours later were still scrolling? Mobile device addiction, commonly known as“nomophobia”, is defined as the fear of being without a mobile device. This behavioral addiction to cell phones affects 66% of the population or roughly 5 billion people. We receive temporary joy from the time we spend on phones, however, it is proven to cause more harm than good. It seems that these convenient, entertaining devices that we carry with us every day are the root of a world of problems.
Although so many people are addicted to cell phones, it may not be their fault that they are. Cell phones themselves are naturally addicting due to the colors, noises, and entertainment options they offer. The inspiration behind design of cell phones is inspired by slot machines at casinos which possess the same quality of being easily addictive. Not only the design, but the convenient way they are integrated into our everyday lives is also a way that cell phones are naturally addicting. With cell phones, we have access to a world of convenient features. This is why we love to keep them with us at all times. Nomophobia is a new type of addiction but has only become more and more common ever since the proliferation of cell phones due to the nature of the device.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brain that allows us to feel a sense of satisfaction. Our brain releases a small amount of dopamine every time we hear a notification and check our phones, though the euphoric effect is only temporary. Our brain wants to continuously check our phones to achieve the feeling of satisfaction, causing the average person to use their phone 85 times per day. This need to check our phones starts as a simple habit and will eventually feel like an obligation. The change from habit to obligation is what makes it an addiction.
Are you wondering if you are addicted to your phone? Of course, if you use your phone an excessive amount, you may have an addiction. However, another way to tell that you are addicted is if you feel stressed or anxious when you don’t have your phone or are not using it. You may find yourself unable to concentrate on everyday tasks or during school because of the overwhelming temptation of needing to be on your phone.
When someone is addicted to their cell phone, they will probably fall short in their ability to communicate in person. Their preferred communication method has gone from talking in person to texting, calling, or using social media. They start to lack the in-person social capabilities that they had before their addiction. This can put a strain on relationships with family and friends and cause conflict. Cell phone addiction is not the only cause of poor mental health among adolescents, but studies have proven their correlation. Although there are many causes of mental, psychological, and physical health problems, it has been confirmed that the rise in depression and anxiety among teens is directly related to the rise in phone usage. This is partly due to the lack of sleep that cell phone addicts get, which is why there should be no screen time for 30 minutes before bed. Another major factor is the issue of self-image that presents when someone is addicted to their phone. Social media acts as a catalyst for body image issues due to the presence of unrealistic beauty standards held by many influencers, whether intentional or not. These standards make social media users, especially adolescents, feel as though they are not as pretty or worthy as others they see on social media, and this can ultimately lead to depression or anxiety surrounding their image.
To prevent contracting an addiction to a cell phone, you have to be very mindful of when and how you use it. Ways to prevent or break an addiction include monitoring how much time you spend on your phone, which can be achieved by downloading an app that will track it. This can help you be more aware of your screen time which may motivate you to reduce it.
Another way is to turn off as many notifications as you possibly can. You can either choose to silence certain apps that might send the most notifications, or you can even mute your phone altogether. Either way, this will help reduce how much time you spend on your phone by preventing the recurrent stimulation of hearing the notification. It is especially helpful to do this at night to prevent a loss of sleep. Therapy is also an option to help break cell phone addiction
Although it is not officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, Cell phone addiction produces effects that are similar to other types of addictions. One of which being drug addiction. It resembles drug addiction in multiple aspects, one of which is its impact on the brain. Much like drug addiction, nomophobia can increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces a calming effect but is also involved in other functions such as vision or regulating anxiety. With an increase in GABA, a person can feel drowsy or it can even cause anxiety.
Phone addiction can also decrease the amount of gray matter that is present in the brain. Because of this, the size and shape of the brain will resemble that of a drug addict when scanned. Grey matter is a tissue that serves to process information from other parts of the body, such as organs. The decrease of gray matter from addiction can affect areas of function such as speech, sight, hearing, and memory.
Cell phones are only going to become more and more common and popular, which means we need to be aware of the consequences they bring. They are important to have in emergencies and convenient for communication, but having them with us all the time comes at a cost. We need to understand the ways they help us and the ways they can damage our mental, physical, and social health when we become addicted. Minimizing cell phone usage is one great step toward healthier bodies, minds, and relationships.