In our societies, the term ‘addiction’ is often associated with drugs like alcohol, weed, heroin, cocaine, etc. But it will be a grave injustice to confine the term to the drugs only. Addiction, by definition, is a chronic and relapsing mental disorder in which the patient is compulsively obsessed with some substance like weed or with some action or set of actions like internet or social media use.
The former type of addiction is known as physical addiction or substance addiction while the latter is called non-substance or behavioral addiction. While it is indisputable to categorize substance addiction as an established mental disorder but the status of behavioral addiction as a psychiatric disease is still debated.
Whatsoever their status is but one thing is sure and that is both types of addictions have deleterious impacts on human mental health. Both of these addictions alter neural pathways of a patients’ brain and affect their judgment, decision-making, learning ability, memory, and behavior control.
More often, treating these addictions requires professional intervention and the treatment includes both prescription drugs and counseling and therapies. Treatment of substance addiction often proves tricky but the situation of a behavioral addict like a mobile device addict can be significantly improved through appropriate counseling and therapy.
What is Mobile Device Addiction?
Mobile device addiction refers to the excessive use of a mobile gadget like a smartphone. A mobile device addict is obsessed with his device most of the time and feels lost if the device runs out of battery.
Well many of us may experience problematic device use but mental health experts around the world are still reluctant to consider mobile device addiction as a type of addiction. Though the medical experts are reluctant to assign the word ‘addiction’ to uncontrolled mobile device use but a raft of new terminologies like nomophobia, textaphrenia, and phantom vibrations have emerged for referring to many problematic aspects of mobile device use.
Nomophobia is the fear of being without your phone; textaphrenia is the fear of inability to communicate via text messages while phantom vibrations are the feeling that your mobile phone is ringing or vibrating but the reality is the opposite.
Similarly, just like other behavioral addictions like compulsive gambling, problematic use of mobile devices triggers the release of dopamine – a chemical – in the brain. Dopamine is released in the brain when you feel happy in certain situations (like socializing with your friends). Dopamine is released in large quantities when you use social media platforms or certain apps.
Still, there are more similarities between mobile device overuse and behavioral addictions. These similarities include loss of control over behavior — you will find it increasingly difficult to turn off your device, withdrawal symptoms like irritability and anxiety when you do not use the device, and relapse – a strong urge to overuse your device after periods of avoidance.
All of the above-stated similarities prove that mobile device addiction is a mental health concern, if not a proper disorder. And this mental health concern is taking its toll on mental health of the addicts.
Symptoms of Mobile Device Addiction
According to Statista, today there are more than 6.6 billion smartphone users – not to mention other mobile devices like tablets — in the world that is more than 83% of the world’s population is using a smartphone — up from just 49% in 2016. With such ubiquitous smartphone use, it is more likely that many of us may have developed an addiction to our smartphones.
Of all the mobile users, adolescents are more likely to develop mobile device addiction. Several research studies have found that mobile use peaks in the teen years and gradually decline afterward. If you suspect that you may have fallen prey to this addictive behavior then look for the following signs and if you exhibit a couple or more of them then you may be true in your speculation.
- Whenever you feel down you race up to your device.
- You find it increasingly difficult to turn off your device.
- You feel lost when you are unable to send and receive texts.
- You wake up frequently in the night to check out your device.
- Very often, you feel that your device is ringing or alerting you when it is not.
- When your device runs out of battery or when you can’t get access to your device then you became anxious and irritate quickly.
- The device consumes much of your time and you are unable to socialize with your family, friends, and colleagues.
- The device use has hindered your school performance, job routine, and family time.
- Whenever you try to limit your screen time, the habit relapses quickly.
Causes of Mobile Device Addiction
There may be several causes that pave the way to mobile device addiction but the following three factors are major contributors to this addictive behavior.
Portable Devices: In contrast to laptops and PCs, mobile devices are portable. This portability of mobile devices has enabled us to carry them everywhere in our pockets. So, whenever we feel down or bored, we open our mobile devices and connect instantly with our family and friends. Virtual socialization induces dopamine release and we feel euphoric. With time, we are accustomed to this gratification and thus at times, it became difficult to put off our mobile devices.
Quick Gratification: Like substance addiction, gratification while using the internet and social media is instant. Each time we feel rewarded like a positive comment or like on our FB or Insta post, a small amount of dopamine is released and we feel calm. This instant gratification is also a major contributor to our problematic mobile use.
Underlying Psychological Problems: Finally, in many instances, there are other psychological issues like stress, depression, and loneliness that manifest themselves in obsessive device use. Using your mobile device excessively for managing your anxieties or other psychological problems makes your problems worse.
Side Effects of Mobile Device Addiction
There may be many other factors involved in excessive mobile device use but after getting this addiction, you may face a range of negative consequences on your mental health.
If you are already suffering from some mental health disorders like attention deficit disorders, then problematic device use will intensify your symptoms.
Mobile use for managing your stress and anxieties exacerbate them instead of calming your mind.
Excessive mobile use is positively correlated with sleep disturbances and this addictive behavior may lead to moderate to severe insomnia.
If you are using mobile devices obsessively then you may develop several negative personality traits like abnormal self-centeredness, narcissism, and distorted self-view.
Mobile device addiction also diminishes your creativity, ability to solve a problem, and coping with stress. Also, it will affect your cognitive faculties.
In addition, mobile device addicts also have relationship conflicts and perform poorly in educational institutions and workplaces.
How to Overcome your Mobile Device Addiction?
When it comes to overcoming excessive mobile use, often support from your family and friends is required. However, if the situation is worse then it is high time to seek professional help. In many instances of moderate addiction, the following steps may prove helpful for overcoming your mobile device addiction.
Analyze your device use: First of all, start keeping a log of your daily activities at least for three consecutive days. After keeping the log, analyze your daily routine and calculate the time spent while using the device. This trick will help you identify whether you are suffering from a mild addiction or exhibit severe addictive behavior. After taking a clear picture, you can then devise your remedial strategy accordingly.
Identifying Triggers: Many of the psychological problems have specific triggers and likewise, mobile addiction has also some triggers. Identify your triggers like you reach out to your mobile when you are depressed or lonely or bored. After identifying the triggers, you must avoid them and if you are unable to avoid the triggers then try to develop an alternative solution. For instance, let’s say feeling lonely is your trigger. So, when you feel lonely then get out for a walk or drive to your nearest restaurant instead of reaching out to the device.
Seek help from your support network: Remember that we are social beings and we like socializing with our fellow beings. The best way to overcome your mobile device addiction is to develop friendships and join social clubs. Also, strengthen bonds with your family members. Quality human interactions lower stress levels and can never be substituted for virtual interactions.
Finally, you can also follow the following practical steps for overcoming your mobile device addiction.
- Gradually limit your screen time by turning off your mobile device at certain times of the day.
- When you have your device then try to avoid addictive games, social media platforms, and time-consuming apps.
- Build your hobbies and try healthier activities like joining a gym, attending a meditation class, etc instead of using the device.
- Don’t bring your device to your bed.
Treating the Mobile Device Addiction
If the above-mentioned tips and tricks are not helping then you must seek professional help. Usually, eliminating mobile device addiction requires several counseling and therapy sessions. Several types of counseling and therapy types are recommended by mental health professionals but cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy are proving more fruitful in modifying the addictive behavior.
In cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), the therapist modifies your compulsive behavior by explaining how your emotions and thoughts direct your behavior. While on the other hand, in group therapies, the therapists utilize face-to-face meetings and social interactions to minimize mobile device and technology use.
Now, it is up to you to stand up for your freedom from the device. Try the self-help tips and if they are not helping then our experienced therapists are only one call away from you. What is holding you back? Just give it a try, pick your phone and dial (306) 801-1119