Have you ever felt a moment of panic when you misplaced your smartphone? If so, you’re not alone. About 73% of people say they’ve experienced this same type of anxiety. In the US, adults dedicate 2-4 hours each day to digital interaction — amassing over 2,600 touches on their phones daily! While the rise in phone use seems necessary for modern life, recent studies have found that it can lead to negative physical and mental health.

Designed to be Addictive

The addiction to smartphones isn’t just chance — it’s neuroscience. The colors, sounds, and even vibrations are designed to keep users engaged. And it’s not just the allure of the device but the feelings it can trigger. Positive social interactions release dopamine — a chemical in our brains that makes us feel good. Social media provides an almost unlimited supply of social interaction, both positive and negative. The desire to constantly seek out these positive interactions — and the release of more feel-good chemicals can lead to what the American Psychiatric Association calls a behavioral addiction, or a set of behaviors that a person becomes dependent on and craves. Gambling is another example of this type of addiction.

Signs & Symptoms of Phone Addiction

Learn how to spot the signs of phone addiction!

Early warning signs of phone addiction:

  • Spending increasing amounts of time on the device
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Lying about phone use

Signs and symptoms of phone addiction include:

  • Checking profiles anxiously, isolation from real-life relationships, and a fear of missing out.
  • Feeling irritated when phone use is interrupted.
  • Having difficulty limiting phone use, and reaching for the phone immediately when alone or bored.
  • Experiencing phantom vibrations (thinking the phone vibrates when it doesn’t).
  • Relying on your phone to cope with emotions, or experiencing withdrawal when unreachable.
  • Prioritizing your phone over relationships or jobs.
  • Feelings of depression, anger, restlessness, and irritability.

While no specific time or frequency defines addiction, these warning signs, when combined, point to an underlying issue with phone use.

Phone Addiction Treatment

  • The best remedy for phone addiction is a timeout. Taking a timeout, even for a day, can provide you with relief. However, a month offers an even more effective reset for our dopamine-driven cravings. A month-long phone break curbs the anxiety and depression linked to excessive phone and social media use, allowing for a renewed appreciation of simpler pleasures.
  • Various strategies can help you regain control over your usage. Disabling notifications for social media apps and switching your display to black and white can diminish the phone’s hold on your attention. Above all, practicing mindful technology use is key. When reaching for your phone, consider if it’s truly worth your time.
  • Deliberate planning is key. Allocate specific times for phone use, steer clear of apps that suck you in, and prioritize those connecting you to real-life relationships. Increase awareness of your phone use by tracking your behavior and the time you spend on different apps.

Ultimately, breaking free from phone addiction takes conscious effort and a commitment to redefining your relationship with technology.

Sources: harvard.edu, dartmouth.edu, stanford.edu