When many people think about addiction, substance abuse is typically the first thing that comes to mind. Other kinds of addictions can cause problems in day-to-day life, however. Cell phone addiction is one type of electronic addiction that is becoming more and more common.
What is Addiction?
An addiction can be called a habit that has gotten out of hand. A habit is simply something you want to do and are used to doing, but you can stop it at any time without feelings of anxiety or withdrawal. Someone who has a cell phone habit may desire to have the cell phone handy, but is not dependent on having it available at all times.
This can be loosely compared to that of a social drinker versus an alcoholic. A social drinker may want a couple of drinks occasionally, but has not developed a dependency. A social drinker will not experience anxiety if another drink is not forthcoming in the near future. An alcoholic, on the other hand, will experience emotional and physical withdrawal without a steady supply of alcohol.
It is well known that alcoholism and other addictive substances cause physical changes in the body; there is speculation that other kinds of addictions, even cell phone addiction, may also result in some temporary changes in the brain, particularly the “reward pathway.” This is connected to our pleasure center in the brain.
Signs That You Might be Addicted
Signs of cell phone addiction are easy to determine, if the addicted person is honest with himself. Here is a checklist:
1. You bring your cell phone with you everywhere you go.
2. If you forget your phone, you go back home to get it even if doing so means you will be late to your job or an important appointment.
3. You check for new calls or texts automatically, without even being aware you are doing so sometimes.
4. You sneak peaks at your phone during meetings, church services, at school or other times when it is not appropriate.
5. You text or make calls while driving.
6. You feel anxious or irritable if your phone is not close to you or it is not working.
7. It would be very hard for you to go a day without your cell phone.
8. You have tried to avoid keeping your phone near you, but then you gave in when your anxiety felt unbearable.
9. If no one has sent you a text for a while, you will text someone just for the thrill of a reply.
10. You keep your cell phone with you at night while you sleep, even if you have a standard home phone.
Not all of these apply to everyone with a cell phone addiction. However, if you said “yes” to even a few, and particularly #2 through #9, then you may have cell phone dependency. Other signs include disruptions of normal social activities. For example, you may have the urge to check your phone even while having a meal with friends or family. When a random, unimportant text or call from someone feels more valuable than face-to-face interactions, this is a serious sign.
Tips for Breaking a Cell Phone Addiction
You must be patient, compassionate and yet firm with yourself as you break this addiction. You should take this day by day.
Set daily and weekly goals for yourself. One initial goal could be to leave your cell phone turned off during meals. You can then expand that goal after a week to include turning it off during other activities.
Your next step can be to put the cell phone away for intervals when you are at home. Let your supportive friends know what you are doing. This way, if they really need to get a hold of you they can call your landline.
Continue the weaning process until you can give your cell phone up completely for an entire week, except in cases of true emergencies. After this, set a new cell phone schedule for yourself so that you do not relapse. For example, unless your career requires you to be contactable 24/7, decide to continue keeping your phone off when you are out at a restaurant or other social venues.
Cell phones have become an important part of daily life. Used appropriately, they provide the power of convenience and an extra safety measure in emergencies. When cell phone use becomes an addiction, however, the device wields power over you instead of working for you.