We live in a world full of people who are, more often than not, glued to their cell phones. In fact, most of us are so attached to these devices that we feel restless the moment we part from it, even if it’s just to use the washroom. And if you find yourself relating to this, there’s a good chance that you’re addicted to your smartphone. This dependency on smartphones comes with a range of harmful effects. But before dive into them, we’ve listed out a few symptoms of smartphone addiction that you should know of.
How Bad Is Your Cell Phone Addiction?
On an average, a smartphone user in the age group of 18–44 spends at least 2 hours a day communicating via text or social media on the phone. Almost 80% of these people check their phones every 15 minutes! Be it in the hopes of getting a text, drawn by the curiosity of who’s contacting them, or even just boredom, this behavior is alarming.1
Cell phone addiction induces particular behaviors in people. The dependence is so high and common that most people tend to display all or most of the following negative behaviors:
- Anxiety, impatience, and stress when unable to get a response or send a reply instantly
- Irritability and feelings of being lost when away from their phones for too long
- Repeatedly interrupting social or professional situations by checking the phone
- Forgetfulness caused by absent-mindedness and a lack of focus due to overt engagement with phones
- Postponing sleep to give in to the pressing need of texting or being present on social media for long and late hours
- Loss of productivity and inability to engage in fruitful activities
These behaviors can be seen in cell phone users of all age groups, including students at the secondary school level. A 2015 study discovered unhealthy cell phone dependence in 31.33% of the sample students in the age group of 14–18. It also highlighted that constant access to information from across the globe made it harder for curious minds to stay away from the gadget for too long. When such a separation was initiated, participants displayed obvious withdrawal symptoms like “craving” for their phone and losing interest in other activities.3
Obsessive use of cell phones can hamper the overall well-being of a person in more ways than one. The very act of frequent texting can be exhaustive at an emotional level, leading to disorientation and fatigue. With the ease of communication, there is a constant pressure to be available at all times and this has a direct impact on everyday life. So we have a reckoner of all the effects of cell phone addiction.
1. Causes Stress, Anxiety, And Depression
A few studies have linked excessive smartphone use to alcohol addiction, smoking, and aggressive behavior. This could be attributed to mental-health complications such as low self-esteem and depression that come with smartphone dependency.
Due to the need to be connected all the time, researchers have found that people are in a constant state of anxiety when it comes to cell phone use. In fact, the heart rate of test subjects increased significantly when their phones were taken away from them and they could hear the notifications from afar. And this phone-induced anxiety operates on a positive feedback loop, i.e, it can only be relieved by looking at the phone and using it. This could be caused due to the fear of missing out and the need to have access to information constantly. It’s no wonder then that experts are blaming excessive smartphone use for high levels of stress and anxiety, especially in school- and college-going individuals. The long-term effects of both stress and anxiety include chronic mental health problems and physical ailments.
Inability to cope with stress and anxiety could lead to a sense of hopelessness that could trigger depression. Studies have found that screen time upwards of 2 hours can trigger suicidal tendencies in children regardless of the kind of content they’re consuming.
2. Disrupts Sleep Patterns
Gone are the days when teens used to fall asleep with a book in their hands. Now, it is relatively common if your smartphone is the last thing you look at before bed and the first thing you look at the moment you wake up. Studies have indicated that long periods of exposure to short-wavelength light (such as the one from smartphones) causes adolescent sleep to become irregular, short, and delayed. And since most schools and workplaces require individuals to wake up early in the day, the circadian rhythm gets disrupted. It’s important to note that circadian rhythm determines not just sleep-wake cycles but also hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions. Hence, your smartphone use isn’t just disrupting your sleeping patterns but also your overall health.
3. Lowers Attention, Concentration, And Academic Performance
Smartphones might be the bane of your grades at school. Research has found that just the presence of smartphones around us can cause our concentration and attention levels to dip. This holds true even when people try and avoid the temptation to check their phones. In the educational sphere, this translates to a lowered understanding of new learning material and comprehension, especially if smartphones are used while something is being taught.
Researchers note that this happens due to the awareness of a missed text message and call or an unchecked notification which remains predominant in the mind of the individual, taking away any attention from the task at hand. In addition to this, individuals who hear their phones ring while being separated from them have shown a decreased enjoyment of the task at hand due to being preoccupied by phone-related thoughts.
4. Worsens Posture
We’re almost always looking into our phones and this can negatively affect our posture. Studies have noted that the typical forward neck posture that people have when they’re on their phones can, in the long run, cause injury to the structure of the cervical and lumbar spine as well as the ligaments. This, in turn, could lead to changes in the form and biomechanics of the rib cage (under which the lung contracts and expands), leading to problems with breathing. Due to this, bad posture is linked to respiratory issues.
5. Strains Vision
Besides affecting your vision, prolonged smartphone use can cause irritation, dryness, and redness in your eyes.
Excessive smartphone use could send you straight to the eyewear store for a pair of prescription glasses or a box of contact lenses. In fact, it turns out that most of us aren’t fully aware of the possible effects of digital eye strain. Research has found that excessive strain on the eyes from screen time can result in myopia or near-sightedness, especially in people who read books or long texts on their phones. Phones also give off HEV or blue light which, as we’d mentioned earlier, contain the shortest wavelengths that carry the largest potential to cause harm to living tissue, which in this case, would be the eyes, especially the retina. And according to a statistics, more than 83 percent of Americans report using digital devices for more than two hours per day, and 53.1 percent report using two digital devices simultaneously, with 60.5 percent reporting experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that more and more people complain of headaches and eyesight issues in today’s times.
6. Might Increase The Risk Of Cancer
Cancer is one of the biggest concerns that people have when talking or reading about excessive cell phone use and their cause for concern could be valid. Cell phones emit radio waves which can be absorbed by the tissues that are close to the area of contact. This form of radiation is possibly carcinogenic, although further studies have to be conducted to understand the full extent of its effects. It is also possible that children are at more risk than adults to be affected by the radiation as their nervous systems might be still developing. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends individuals who are concerned about radio frequency exposure to “limit their exposure, including using an earpiece and limiting cell phone use, particularly among children.”13 14
Tips To Break Free From Cell Phone Addiction
In order to break free from the negative impacts of cell phone overuse, it is important to make a few lifestyle changes. Here are a few of them:
- Set aside a certain amount of time every day where you completely stay away from your phone.
- Keep your phone away from your bed and use an actual alarm clock to wake up on time.
- Turn your phone off before you start driving.
- Reduce the amount of time you spend on texting. Instead, engage in more face-to-face conversations by turning off the notifications.
- Ask a loved one to discipline you if you find it difficult to stay away from your phone for long.
- Take up a new hobby and spend your time in a more productive way.
- Take a twenty-second break every twenty minutes and look at something twenty feet away to reduce digital eye strain.
- “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones”. World Health Organization. October 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- “Press Announcements – Statement from Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health on the recent National Toxicology Program draft report on radiofrequency energy exposure”.