Since the release of smartphones in 2009, a day spent without access to one’s phone sounds punishing and almost impossible. In 2017, the average American spent 3 hours and seventeen minutes per day (or 27 percent of total media time) on their mobile phones, and this number is readily growing. Another research shows that U.S. users spend more than half their time (51 percent) on social media, messaging, and entertainment apps.
The dependency of the average American on their cell phones, for mundane routine work, is alarming. Surveys by the Pew Research Center for 2016 showed that 77% of Americans owned smartphones, while ninety-five percent own a cell phone of some kind. According to an infographic, the average American checks his phone 110 times.
Addiction is, no doubt, not limited to the use of drugs or alcohol.
James Roberts, a marketing professor at University in Waco, Texas, states, “People can be addicted to behaviors.”
According to Roberts, some cell phone users show the same symptoms that a drug addict might. Most people use smartphones to elevate their mood. When our phones beep or ring, our brains get a hit of dopamine and serotonin – the chemicals linked to happiness. These chemicals are also what induce a “high” as a result of drugs.
“Nomophobia” is a 21st-century term for the fear of being unable to use your cell phone or another smart device. It is authentic and rife amongst the generation that Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, labeled as “iGen.” According to Jean, while the lifestyle adopted by this generation, of people born in 1995-2002, guarantees better physical safety than past generations, physiologically, they are far more vulnerable.
In 2012, the proportion of American citizens who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent. An increment in the percentage of mental illnesses amongst the iGen accompanied this sudden escalation. Jean Twenge describes iGen as being on the brink of the “worst mental health crisis in decades”.
Listed below are some of the major adverse effects that mobile addiction has on mental health:
For people with cell phone addictions, losing their phone or having its battery dead and therefore being unable to use it can cause feelings of anxiety or panic. Roberts explains this as withdrawal, which Tracii Ryan, a psychologist at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, says is one of the two legitimate symptoms of addiction; the other being excessive use.
A study, in the U.S., that had young people temporarily separated from their phones, observed that they performed worse on mental tasks while they were in “withdrawal,” and experienced physiological symptoms, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Stress and Isolation
The excessive use of smartphones as escapism or merely as a way of avoiding boredom can encourage feelings of disengagement or dissociation. This creates barriers with family and friends, limiting a person’s social interactions and stimulating feelings of loneliness.
Relying on your cell phone to escape an unpleasant or dull situation may seem convenient, however, it makes you susceptible to stress, due to a paucity of mental exercise. If you’re dealing with internet or phone addiction finding a mental health professional can help you recover.
The problem lies in the fact that people are spending most of the time on their phones, not on social interaction through phone calls, as it was in past decades, but on various social media platforms. These are unhealthy obsessions as they give the facade of social interaction, but in reality are far from it. The standards of a socially acceptable character and way of living that are implicit in watching other people’s lives online, which are often highly manicured and deceptive, is thought to be what creates feelings of insecurity and depression through social media.
Constant staring at a screen can cause anxiety. Spending an excessive amount of time on your phone causes you to neglect other parts of your life making you feel unproductive which leads to feelings of anxiety and depression.
Lowered Attention Span
A small study, presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, further indicates that cell phone addiction might adversely affect brain functioning.
Researchers from Korea University in Seoul compared the brains of 19 teenage boys who were diagnosed with smartphone addiction with 19 teenagers who were not addicted. The brains of the addicted boys had notably higher levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the cortex that inhibits neurons, resulting in reduced attention and control; the mind of those teens was thus more vulnerable to distractions.
Mobile phone addiction is significantly associated with fatigue. The use of the device before bed disrupts sleep patterns because of a blue light emitted from cell phones and other internet devices that disrupts melatonin production and hence our sleep. Excessive use increases the likelihood of insomnia.
These are, not all but, some of the significant effects of mobile phone addiction. If you or a friend finds himself getting addicted to their mobile phone, the first move is to identify and acknowledge the problem. An essential step in doing so is to be aware of the importance of mental health and keep yours in check.
Next, you must curb your phone usage and prioritize your mental health. Push yourself towards engaging in more in-person social interactions and find healthier, more productive pastimes.
Last, keep in mind the importance of your health and don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
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