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Phone Addiction: Warning Signs And Treatment

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It has become impossible to live without our devices, whether it is for work, socializing, or enjoying entertainment. The pandemic has made things worse. The use of smartphones is not always bad, of course. New York University’s Stern School of Business marketing and psychology professor Adam Alter said smartphones could sometimes bring people together, make them happier, enrich their lives, and make them more connected to each other. Nevertheless, there are effective ways to cut back, according to experts.

Smartphone Addiction

Smartphones, tablets, and computers can be incredibly productive tools, but excessive use can disrupt work, school, or relationships. Using technology excessively can lead to negative consequences in your life if you spend too much time on social media, playing games, or constantly checking texts, emails, or apps.

An internet overuse problem or an internet addiction disorder can often fuel smartphone addiction, colloquially known as “nomophobia.” When it comes to phone addiction, the compulsion is rarely created by the phone but rather by the apps, games, and online worlds it provides.

It is possible to develop an addiction to a smartphone for a variety of reasons, including:

Online relationships. Virtual, online friends can become more important than real-life relationships when people become addicted to social networking, dating apps, texting, and messaging. Usually, we see couples at restaurants ignoring one another and spending their time on their phones instead of interacting with each other. 

Internet relationships are not a healthy alternative to real-life interactions — regardless of how useful they can be for meeting new people, reconnecting with friends, or even starting romantic relationships. It can be appealing to form an online friendship since it tends to exist in a bubble, free from the struggles and demands of messy real-world relationships. If you use dating apps too often, you may miss out on developing long-term relationships in favor of short-term hookups.

Overload of information. In addition to decreasing your productivity at work or school, compulsive browsing, watching videos, or playing video games can isolate you for hours at a time. Smartphone apps and internet use can lead to neglect of relationships and hobbies in the real world, as well as neglect of other aspects of your life.

Addiction to cybersex. If you are compulsively using Internet pornography, sexting, nude-swapping, or adult messaging services, it can negatively impact your relationships with others and your emotional health overall. Despite being forms of sexual addiction, online pornography and cybersex addictions are more easily accessible, more anonymous, and more convenient. In the virtual world, you can spend hours engrossed in fantasies that are impossible in reality. It is difficult for couples to establish long-term intimate relationships if they use dating apps excessively that facilitate casual sex.

Online compulsions, including gaming, stock trading, gambling, online shopping, and bidding in auctions, such as eBay, can often result in financial and employment issues. The availability of Internet gambling has made gambling much more accessible, despite the fact that gambling addiction has been documented for many years. Investing in stocks or shopping online compulsively can be just as damaging financially and socially. In order to be online for an auction’s last few minutes, eBay addicts may wake up at strange hours. If you are caught up in the excitement of placing a winning bid, you may purchase things you do not need or cannot afford.

Internet and smartphone addiction: causes and effects

Unlike laptops and desktop computers, smartphones and tablets are portable and convenient, allowing us to satisfy our impulses wherever and whenever we want. The majority of us never leave our smartphones more than five feet away. As with drugs and alcohol, they cause the brain to release dopamine and alter your mood. Tolerance can also be built up rapidly so that it takes longer and longer to receive the same pleasure from these screens.

Stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness can often be symptomatic of heavy smartphone use. In addition, it can worsen these problems. The use of your smartphone in social situations will only serve to isolate you further from people around you if you use it as a “security blanket” to cope with feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or awkwardness. By staring at your phone, you will miss out on meaningful face-to-face interactions, which can relieve anxiety, boost your mood, and help you connect with others. You are actually making your anxiety worse by engaging with your smartphone (the remedy you have chosen for your anxiety).

Negatively Impact Of Smartphone Addiction and Internet Addiction On Your Life:

  • An increase in loneliness and depression. Even though you may think you will feel better if you lose yourself online, it can actually worsen depression, loneliness, and boredom. Social media usage was correlated with anxiety and depression in a study conducted in 2014. The use of social media tends to promote feelings of loneliness and depression, especially in teens, as they begin to compare themselves unfavorably with their peers.
  • A source of anxiety. People perform worse on given tasks when a phone is present in their work environment. Anxiety increased with greater phone usage.
  • Stress increases. When you use your smartphone for work, your work can spill over into your personal life as well. It feels like you have to be on at all times, always in touch with work. As a result of continuously checking and responding to emails, stress levels can rise, and even burnout can occur.
  • Intensifying attention deficit disorders. A smartphone constantly streams messages and information, causing the brain to feel overwhelmed and unable to focus on anything for more than a few minutes without moving on to another distraction.
  • Concentration and creativity are diminished. You can lose focus on important tasks when your smartphone constantly buzzes, pings, or beeps, interrupting those quiet moments that are so crucial when it comes to problem-solving and creativity. As a result, we’re never alone with our thoughts anymore.
  • Interfering with your sleep. You can suffer serious mental health consequences if you use your smartphone excessively at night. As a result, you can lose your memory, be unable to think clearly and suffer cognitive deterioration.
  • Promoting self-absorption. A UK study found that social media users are more likely to demonstrate negative personality traits such as narcissism than those who spend minimal time on the site. Taking endless selfies and posting all your thoughts can get in the way of real-life relationships, disabling you from coping with stress and creating unhealthy self-centeredness.

Smartphone Addiction Symptoms

An addiction or overuse problem does not depend on how much time you spend on your phone, how often you check for updates, or how many messages you send or receive.

Connecting to your phone so much that it interferes with relationships with people in person, at work, at school, with hobbies, or in any other part of your life is only a problem when you spend so much time on it. In order to strike a healthier balance in your life, you should reassess your smartphone use and avoid ignoring friends over lunch to read Facebook updates.

Indications Of Smartphone Or Internet Overuse:

Having trouble completing tasks at home or at work. 

When you’ve been online, texting, or playing video games, have you found yourself with piled-up laundry and little food in the house for dinner? Your work may not be completed on time, so you work late more frequently.

Social isolation. Are you spending too much time on your phone or another device that’s affecting your social life? Is checking your phone causing you to lose track of what your friends are saying during a meeting? Are your family and friends concerned that you spend too much time on your phone? In real life, do you feel as if you are not understood by anyone the way you are by your online friends, not even your spouse?

Covering up your smartphone use. Are you guilty of sneaking off to use your phone in a quiet place? When asked how much time you spend online, do you lie or hide your smartphone usage? When your online time is interrupted, do you become irritated or cranky?

A fear of missing out (also known as FOMO). When you don’t check your phone regularly, do you ever feel out of the loop or feel like you might miss out on important news or information? Do you find yourself constantly checking social media because you worry that others are having more fun or leading more exciting lives than you? Are you one of those people who checks their phones late at night?

Feel anxiety, panic, or dread when your smartphone is left behind at home, the battery runs out, or the operating system crashes. Perhaps you’re experiencing phantom vibrations — thinking your phone vibrated, but no messages or updates appeared when you checked?

Addiction To Smartphones And Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are a common indication of a smartphone or Internet addiction. They may include:

  • Feeling restless
  • Irritability or anger
  • Concentration problems
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • A desire to be able to use your smartphone or another device

How To Overcome Smartphone Addiction On Your Own

Getting your smartphone and Internet usage under control can be done in a number of ways. The truth is that many of these measures can be initiated by the individual themselves, but it can be difficult to overcome addiction alone, especially when temptation is always close at hand. Getting caught up in old habits can be very easy. Seek out external support, whether it comes from your family, friends, or a therapist.

If you want to identify your issue areas, keep a record of how and when you use your smartphone for non-essential activities other than work. Apps can help you track your phone usage, allowing you to check your time usage. Does your phone use increase at certain times of the day? What else could you do instead? By understanding how you use your smartphone, you will be able to take back control and curb your habits.

Discover your triggers for reaching for your phone. Do you act this way when you are lonely or bored? Using your smartphone excessively may help you cope with depression, stress, or anxiety, for instance. You should instead practice relaxation techniques in order to manage your moods more effectively.

Identify the differences between online and in-person interactions. The human species is social by nature. Technology shouldn’t replace human interaction or isolate us from each other. Face-to-face social interaction, including eye contact and body language, can calm you, make you feel understood, and relieve stress quickly. Texting, emailing, or messaging ignores these nonverbal cues so they can’t have the same effect on your emotions. You cannot hug your online friends when you’re sick, visit them, or share a happy occasion with them.

Learn how to cope. You might cope with stress or anger by tweeting, texting, or blogging. Maybe you have trouble communicating with others and are more comfortable communicating online. You can handle daily stresses without relying on your smartphone by building skills in these areas.

Make sure you are aware of any underlying problems supporting your compulsive behavior. Do you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse? Are there any aspects of your smartphone use that remind you of the times you used to drink or use drugs to distract yourself or numb yourself?

Build a strong support network. Make sure you dedicate time to your friends and family each week. Making long-lasting friends can be challenging if you’re shy, but it’s possible to overcome your social awkwardness without relying on the crutch of social media. Consider asking colleagues at work for suggestions, joining a book club or some local sports team, enrolling in an educational or handicrafts course, or volunteering for a cause you care about. It will be easier for you to interact with others like you, develop relationships naturally, and build friendships that will strengthen your health and enhance your life.

Correcting Your Smartphone Usage Step-By-Step

Quitting cold turkey isn’t an option for most people when it comes to controlling their smartphone and Internet usage. You can think of it as a diet. In the same way that you have to eat, you also need your phone for school work, your job, and communicating with family and friends. The goal should be to reduce your use to a more healthy level.

  1. Set goals for when you can use your smartphone. 

If you’ve completed a homework assignment or chore, for example, you might reward yourself with some time on your phone afterward.

  1. Fix Hours In The Day To Turn Your Phone Off

You could be driving, attending a meeting, working out, eating supper, or playing with your children during this time. When you go to the bathroom, don’t take your phone.

  1. Avoid bringing your phone to bed.

The use of screens within two hours of bedtime can disrupt your sleep due to the blue light they emit. Charge devices overnight by turning them off and leaving them in another room. Choose a book to read instead of an eBook at night. It will not only make you sleep better, but it will also help you remember what you’ve read better.

  1. Engage in healthier activities instead of using your smartphone

A smartphone can be very tempting when you are bored and lonely. Alternatively, you could meditate, read a book, or chat with friends in person.

  1. Play “phone stack”

If you are with other smartphone addicts, try the “phone stack” game. Put your smartphones face down on the table before you eat lunch, dinner, or have drinks with friends. It is forbidden to grab one’s phone even as it buzzes and beeps. In the event that someone is unable to resist checking their phone, they must pick up everyone’s check.

  1. Don’t use social media apps on your phone

Therefore, you are limited to checking Facebook and Twitter from your computer. In addition, keep in mind that what you see on social media is often not an accurate portrayal of someone’s life-people exaggerate their positive traits, sweeping aside the disappointments and doubts everyone endures. You can boost your confidence and mood by spending less time comparing yourself to these stylized representations.

  1. Limit The Number Of Times You Check Your Phone

Reduce your frequency of checking your phone to once every 15 minutes if you are prone to compulsive checking. Following that, every 30 minutes, and then every hour. You can use apps to limit your phone access in case you need it.

  1. Don’t let fear of missing out get the best of you

Accept that you may miss out on some invitations, news, or gossip when you limit your smartphone use. It’s almost impossible to keep up with everything on the Internet, anyway, since there is so much information available. It can be liberating to accept this fact and be less dependent on technology as a result.

Addiction treatment for smartphones and the Internet

In order to help you break your phone addiction or stop using the Internet, there are now special treatment centers offering digital detox programs. You can also control your technology use through individual and group therapy.

The cognitive-behavioral approach teaches you how to stop compulsive behaviors and change your perception of your smartphone and the Internet. Your smartphone use may also be fuelled by unpleasant emotions like stress, anxiety, or depression, which can be addressed through therapy.

Counseling for couples or marriages. A counselor can help you work through problems such as excessive Internet pornography or online affairs and reconnect with your partner if they are affecting your relationship.

A group support system. Several organizations offer face-to-face meetings as well as online support to curb excessive technology use, including Internet Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA). Obviously, addiction support groups cannot function without real-life participants.

You can find sources of assistance through online support groups, but they can also serve as an excuse for spending more time on your smartphone. If you are having trouble with cybersex addiction, you might want to consider joining Sex Addicts Anonymous.

Managing smartphone addiction in children and teens

Parents who’ve tried to get their children or teens away from their smartphones or tablets know how difficult it is. In most cases, confiscating your child’s smartphone will only backfire, resulting in anxiety and withdrawal symptoms. Alternatively, you can help your child achieve a healthier balance by:

Set a good example. Managing your smartphone and Internet use is important since children tend to imitate what you do. When you’re staring at your phone or tablet during dinner, it’s no good asking your child to unplug. Avoid using your smartphone when you are interacting with your child.

Make sure your child’s smartphone use is monitored and limited by using apps. The app market offers a variety of options for limiting your child’s mobile data usage or restricting texting and web browsing to certain times of the day. In addition, there are apps that can prevent your teen from using a smartphone while driving by blocking messaging capabilities while in motion.

Establish “phone-free” zones. You may want to limit your child’s online time by keeping an eye on his or her activity and restricting their use of smartphones or tablets to a common area of the house. Insist on turning off phones after a certain time in the evening at the dinner table and in the bedrooms.

Take part in other activities and interests. Introduce your child to other activities outside of screens, such as sports, Scouts, and afterschool clubs. Family time should be spent unplugged.

Discuss underlying issues with your child. Excessive use of smartphones may indicate deeper issues. Does your child have trouble fitting in? 

Do you feel stressed because of recent changes, such as a move or divorce? Is your child having other problems at home or at school?

Seek assistance. Although it is common for adolescents to rebel against their parents, they may be more likely to listen to information from someone else. You might want to speak with your coach, doctor, or a trusted family member. In case you have concerns about your child’s smartphone usage, seek professional counseling.

If your child is having a hard time at school, they could be overusing their phone as an escape from the real world, and it’s important to resolve the underlying issue first. If your child has ADHD, this problem might be exacerbated. However, there are a number of strategies to help your ADHD child or teen at school.