Is Cell Phone Addiction A Real Addiction?

The recent explosion of iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones has provided people with the ability to access the entirety of the Internet on-the-go and at any given moment. 90% of adults in America own a cell phone,1 and while this may not be a problem for many people, some individuals develop an addiction to their mobile devices.

90% of American adults own a cell phone.1

Cell phones are constantly being improved by expanding upon their functionalities, which in turn increases the likelihood of overuse and addiction. According to the PEW Research Center, 67% of smartphone owners have admitted to checking their phone for calls or messages when their phone didn’t vibrate or ring. This is one major sign of cell phone dependence and should serve as a warning to cell phone owners.

Signs and Symptoms of Cell Phone Addiction

Although cell phone addiction is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), research has compared it to gambling addiction, which has clearer diagnostic criteria and is included in the DSM-5.

At least 4 of the following signs and symptoms are thought to comprise criteria for cell phone addiction, and the problematic cell phone overuse must cause significant harm in the individual’s life:

  • A need to use the cell phone more and more often in order to achieve the same desired effect.
  • Persistent failed attempts to use cell phone less often.
  • Preoccupation with smartphone use.
  • Turns to cell phone when experiencing unwanted feelings such as anxiety or depression.
  • Excessive use characterized by loss of sense of time.
  • Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use.
  • Tolerance.
    • Need for newest cell phone, more applications, or increased use.
  • Withdrawal, when cell phone or network is unreachable.
    • Anger.
    • Tension.
    • Depression.
    • Irritability.
    • Restlessness.

If you or a loved one displays these signs and symptoms of cell phone addiction, help is readily available. Call the phone number above to speak with a treatment specialist about various recovery options.

Physical Effects of Addiction

woman experiencing a headache
Overuse of your cell phone or smartphone can result in a number of different physical problems that may cause permanent damage or be difficult to treat, including:

  • Digital eye strain.
    • The pain and discomfort associated with viewing a digital screen for over 2 hours.
    • Eyes begin to burn and itch.
    • Blurred vision.
    • Eye fatigue.
    • Digital Eye Strain can cause headaches.
  • Neck problems.
    • Also known as “text neck,” which refers to neck pain resulting from looking down at cell phone or tablet for too long.
  • Increased illnesses due to germs.
    • 1 in 6 cell phones has fecal matter on it.
    • E. coli bacteria, which can cause fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, is found on many phones.
    • Phones have been found to be contaminated with MRSA.
      • Causes painful abscesses.
      • Life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs.
  • Car accidents.
    • Many people believe that they can multitask and use their phones while driving, but this causes significant impairment and puts the driver and others on the road in danger.
    • Research has revealed that texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
  • Male infertility.
    • Preliminary studies have revealed that cell phone radiation may decrease sperm count, sperm motility and viability.

Psychological Effects of Cell Phone Addiction

  • Sleep disturbances.
    • Cell phone addiction has been linked to an increase in sleep disorders and fatigue in users.
    • Using your cell phone before bed increases the likelihood of insomnia.
      • Bright light may decrease sleep quality.
      • Smartphone use could increase amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
      • Light emitted from the cell phone may activate the brain.
  • Depression.10
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
  • Relationship problems.
    • Offline relationships may suffer as a result of neglect in favor of excessive cell phone and social media use.
  • Anxiety.
    • Research has found that college students who use their cell phones the most are more likely to feel anxious during downtime.

Am I Addicted to my Smartphone?

This self-assessment is not meant to officially diagnose you with cell phone addiction. If you are concerned about your problematic behaviors, speak to your doctor or mental health professional about possible treatment.

  1. Do you find yourself spending more time on your smartphone than you realize?
  2. Do you find yourself mindlessly passing time on a regular basis by staring at your smartphone even though there might be better or more productive things to do?
  3. Do you seem to lose track of time when on your cell phone?
  4. Do you find yourself spending more time texting, tweeting, or emailing as opposed to talking to real-time people?
  5. Has the amount of time you spend on your cell phone been increasing?
  6. Do you secretly wish you could be a little less wired or connected to your cell phone?
  7. Do you sleep with your smartphone on or under your pillow or next to your bed regularly?
  8. Do you find yourself viewing and answering texts, tweets, and emails at all hours of the day and night, even when it means interrupting other things you are doing?
  9. Do you text, email, tweet, or surf the internet while driving or doing other similar activities that require your focused attention and concentration?
  10. Do you feel your use of your cell phone actually decreases your productivity at times?
  11. Do you feel reluctant to be without your smartphone, even for a short time?
  12. When you leave the house, you ALWAYS have your smartphone with you and you feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable when you accidentally leave your smartphone in the car or at home, or you have no service, or it is broken?
  13. When you eat meals, is your cell phone always part of the table place setting?
  14. When your phone rings, beeps, buzzes, do you feel an intense urge to check for texts, tweets, or emails, updates, etc.?
  15. Do you find yourself mindlessly checking your phone many times a day even when you know there is likely nothing new or important to see?


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