Is your mobile phone addiction affecting your mental health and wellbeing?

We recently shared some data concerning the extent of our Problematic Mobile Phone Usage (PMPU). We all know mobile phones are increasingly pervasive in our lives. For many of us, it’s almost impossible to imagine life without them.

And this can lead to some major mental health problems. In fact, PMPU looks set to become one of the biggest behavioural addiction challenges of the 21st Century.

Here’s some sobering food for thought for anyone who thinks they might be addicted to their mobile:

1.  Apple’s most recent meta-data statistics for usage (October 2017) reveals the average user swipes 2617 times in an average day, unlocks their phone in excess of 80 separate occasions and approximately every 12 minutes. 

2.  Data also suggests 60% of Australians are connected to the internet for an average of 18.8 hours per day, and that we underestimate the time we spend on our devices by 50%.

The age of Nomophobia has arrived.

The psychology of technology strongly indicates we’ve now entered an era of ‘Nomophobia’ (fear of not having your mobile phone). Here are the four pathways driving this new phobia – how many do you recognise?

1. Would you benefit from greater self-regulation and self-discipline (executive brain function) to exercise control over your impulsive need for your phone?

2. How often do you become anxious when you’re deprived of your mobile connection to the world and/or risk being left behind in your key relationships, at work and socially?

3. Are you highly sociable and extroverted?

4. How much does your phone usage facilitate your cyber addiction?

You can say you have an addictive behaviour when:

1. A ‘substance’ gets in the way of your relationships and becomes a source of irritation, concern or annoyance

2. A ‘substance’ gets in the way of doing other more important things and causes you to procrastinate in other aspects of your daily life

3. You become irritated and agitated when you don’t have access to the ‘substance’

4. A little of the ‘substance’ leads to you wanting more

5. You have disrupted sleep.

In the case of ‘nomophobes,’ phones and the internet become the substance of choice.

An anaesthetic for the troubled mind?

In Mindful.org, author and philosopher with the London School of Life, Alain De Botton suggests our biggest relationship problem with our phones isn’t that we rely on them constantly (the lazy brain,” “I’ll just Google it” argument).

Rather, he writes, if we’re constantly attached to our phones, we are, by definition, detached from other (more important) things, most notably our own selves.

Research suggests many of us would rather administer electric shocks to ourselves than sit with only our own minds for company. But it’s often in those idle moments that our knowledge of our selves – the good, the bad and the ugly – become clearer to us.

Are we therefore using our phones to numb or escape the difficult thoughts and emotions that bubble up when we stop for a truly ‘idle moment’?

8 ways to combat your phone addiction.

Here are our suggestions to help prevent or treat a phone addiction:

1. Be consciously aware of when reaching for the phone becomes a habituated response to feeling bored or having a spare moment.

2. Develop muscle strength to exercise better discipline over the immediate gratification that comes from consulting your phone. Easier said than done, this starts with awareness and self-compassion.

3. Set notifications for yourself for time out to ‘be’ not ‘do.’ Take a breather, switch off and grab some real solitude – but not the kind that comes with a trashy mag or binge TV. Yes, they might offer some pleasant diversions that help you relax, but they’re not about you ‘being with and by yourself,’ which is where the gold lies for self-growth and self-renewal.

4. Immerse yourself in special moments and experiences, letting go of your need to capture everything. Allow yourself to be absorbed 100% in the experience. And spend time afterwards savouring and reflecting on the moment.

5. Install parental control apps to track and limit for better self-monitoring.

6. Swap to a dumbphone for part of the day, evenings or over weekends.

7. Ban yourself from apps that cause particularly addictive behaviours – see ‘Checky’ for an example.

8. Consult a clinical psychologist – research shows a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for compulsive behaviours.

If you’d like to learn more about the ‘silent derailers’ affecting your wellbeing at home and at work, click here.

 

Sources: 

  • Meagher, (October 2017). Addiction to mobile phones. Australian Psychological Society Magazine.
  • Rosen & Gazzaley (2016). The Distracted Mind .
  • The Times (October 2017). Break your smartphone habit in 14 days.
  • (2015) Harvard Business Review
  • De Botton, A. (November 2017). The hidden cost of phone addiction. Mindful.org