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Problematic Smartphone Usage Disorder Facts & Self-Test

It’s no secret that smartphones have become a staple in our everyday lives. Images of people reading the newspaper on the train to pass the time are long gone. These images have been replaced by the all too familiar scene of people holding their phone inches from their face, slumped over, and sucked into their own digital world.

The first iPhone came out in 2007, and it wasn’t long until other brands began producing smartphones that were similar to the iPhone. A survey conducted in 2021 revealed that 85% of Americans own a smartphone, as compared to only 35% in 2011[1].

In the present moment, most people have a smartphone with the expectation of some elderly or very young children. Although, even young children who do not have a cell phone may have access to an iPad to play games, watch movies, and provide entertainment. In a recent survey, 60% of parents say their children started using a smartphone by the age of five. Of this group, 31% say their children started using a smartphone before the age of two[2].

Smartphones can give access to answers to almost any question imaginable. These devices provide endless entertainment with streaming services and mobile gaming. Smartphones are used for communication across the world. Although smartphones can be beneficial devices, there can also be negative impacts from the overuse of these devices.

These negative impacts can be caused by smartphone addiction and are classified as behavioral addiction. Smartphone usage disorder can affect people of all ages, cultural backgrounds, and social statuses. It is essential to know the signs of smartphone addiction and how to break this addiction.

Self-Test Here for Smartphone Addiction

This questionnaire is based on the proposed diagnostic criteria for smartphone addiction displayed in a recent study[8].

Please consult a mental health professional as soon as possible if your responses indicate you suffer from smartphone addiction. If you received a score in the minimal to mild smartphone addiction range, your risk for problematic smartphone usage disorder is low. However, you should seek professional help to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

What is Problematic Smartphone Usage Disorder?

Scientifically speaking, addiction is typically associated with severe effects on physical and psychological health. As of now, smartphone addiction is not considered an addiction by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, a book that is currently used to highlight and define current medical disorders[5]. A recent study found a proposed diagnostic criteria of six symptom criteria and four functional criteria that can be used to identify smartphone addiction[8].

Smartphone addiction can sometimes be referred to as “nomophobia,” the physiological fear of not having access to a smartphone. This leads to an issue with impulse control and causes people to constantly fuel their addiction to their smartphones[7].

Signs & Symptoms of Smartphone Addiction

Below are some common signs of symptoms that can be associated with smartphone usage disorder, otherwise known as smartphone addiction.

Signs of smartphone usage disorder include:[6]:

Who is at Risk?

Research has suggested that a combination of personality traits can increase the risk of developing problematic smartphone usage disorder. Some of these traits are low self-worth, lack of impulse control, high anxiety, chronic depression, and extroversion[6].

Research has also shown that young adults more often display symptoms of smartphone addiction. Cellphone usage tends to increase into the teenage years, having the highest usage as compared to all other age groups.

A recent study found that 33% of young adults around the age of 13 never turn their smartphones off. Young women tend to use their smartphones more often for social interaction apps, while boys tend to use their smartphones for mobile gaming[6].

Harmful Impacts of Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone addiction can be associated negative impacts to mental health and psychological wellbeing. A recent study also showed that an association can be made between excessive smartphone use and abnormal brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and in networks that connect to this region[10].

Negative effects of smartphone usage disorder can include:

How to Reduce Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone addiction can be a challenging disorder that can consume vast amounts of time and can reduce the quality of daily life. Finding deliberate ways to use this device can help reduce smartphone addiction and bring about a better quality of life.

Ways to reduce smartphone addiction include:

Helping Children Stop Addiction

Many children do not understand the negative impacts that can be associated with too much screen time. This is especially true when it comes to the convenient form of having a screen that is small enough to fit in a hand and can go almost anywhere.

If you think your children may be addicted to their cell phones, here are some helpful tips on how to handle this situation[4].

Outside Help for Smartphone Usage Disorder

Trying to stop smartphone usage disorder with these tips does not always result in recovery. Outside help may increase the likelihood of developing healthy habits with smartphones and reduce smartphone addiction[7].

CBT or Cognitive-behavioral therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) that can help with overcoming impulsive behaviors. When applied to smartphone addiction, CBT can help change perceptions regarding the use of a smartphone and provide healthier ways of coping with feelings like anxiety, stress, or depression.

Getting help from a medical professional can help with teaching new ways to cope with the feelings that trigger smartphone addictions. This medical professional can be a primary care doctor, a psychiatrist, or a life coach and these professionals may be able to offer a new insight into the addiction.

Joining an organization that meets as a group to talk about smartphone-related issues and provide solutions can be helpful in finding recovery from smartphone usage disorder. Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous is one such group that can provide help for smartphone addiction. ITAA is a 12-step based program that offers in-person meetings as a support network for smartphone and other technological addictions[9].

Achieving Digital Freedom

After taking the smartphone addiction quiz you may learn whether or not you are struggling with this condition. If you or someone you love realizes they may be struggling with smartphone addiction, SoCal Mental Health is here to help. We can help you understand this addiction and provide you with various treatment programs that will help you find recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of smartphone addiction, reach out to SoCal Mental Health today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our program.

Sources

  1. Pew Research Center. (2021, November 23). Demographics of mobile device ownership and adoption in the United States. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/mobile/

  2. ​​Auxier, B., Anderson, M., Perrin, A., & Turner, E. (2020, August 27). Children’s engagement with digital devices, Screen Time. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/07/28/childrens-engagement-with-digital-devices-screen-time/

  3. Psychiatry Advisor, (2017, July 27) Criteria For Identification of Smartphone Addiction – Psychiatry Advisor. Retrieved March 14,2022, from Psychiatry Advisor website: https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/addiction/criteria-for-identification-of-smartphone-addiction/

  4. Team, K. (2022, January 21). 11 powerful strategies to get rid of phone addiction. Kidslox. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://kidslox.com/guide-to/11-powerful-strategies-to-get-rid-of-phone-addiction

  5. De-Sola Gutiérrez, J., Rodríguez de Fonseca, F., & Rubio, G. (1AD, January 1). Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review. Frontiers. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00175/full

  6. Stanborough, R. J. (2019, October 17). Cell phone addiction: Is it really a thing, and what can you do? Healthline. Retrieved March 14, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/cell-phone-addiction

  7. Melinda, (2019, March 20). Smartphone Addiction. Helpguide.org. Retried March 14th, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/addictions/smartphone-addiction.htm

  8. Lin, Y.-H., Chiang, C.-L., Lin, P.-H., Chang, L.-R., Ko, C.-H., Lee, Y.-H., & Lin, S.-H. (2016, November 15). Proposed diagnostic criteria for smartphone addiction. PloS one. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC5112893/

  9. ITAA. (2021, March 28). Internet and technology addiction. Internet and Technology Addicts Anonymous. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://internetaddictsanonymous.org/internet-and-technology-addiction/

  10. Wacks, Y., & Weinstein, A. M. (2021, May 28). Excessive smartphone use is associated with health problems in adolescents and young adults. Frontiers. Retrieved March 17, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.669042/full