Smartphone addiction has been joked about for quite sometime now, you may even have been told that you’re addicted to your smartphone. Now, thanks to research done by Dr. David Greenfield, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, smartphone addiction has not only been identified complete with symptoms, but a name has been given to the addiction.
Smartphone addiction is now known as “nomophobia” and the rate at which this addiction is growing has some people very concerned. Like any other addiction, there are symptoms to nomophobia, which is short for no-mobile-phone phobia. The symptoms include a feeling of panic or desperation anytime you don’t have your smartphone, separation from things happening or people physically surrounding you, or having to check your phone for notifications all of the time. If you’re in advanced stages of the addiction, you more than likely think you hear or feel your smartphone ringing-even though it’s not. That feeling is known to some as ghost ring or vibrate, but also known as cellphone vibration syndrome. Dr. Greenfield’s studies show a connection between our smartphones, and our dopamine transmitters.
Dopamine is a chemical in the brain and is produced by the body. When something good happens to us, our brain releases a spurt of dopamine that acts like a little reward from the body. Dr. Greenfield notes that nomophobia, like many other addictions, occurs due to a dysregulation of dopamine associated with the use of our smartphones. “Every time you get a notification from your phone, there’s a little elevation in dopamine that says you might have something that’s compelling, whether that’s a text message from someone you like, an email, or anything,” Dr. Greenfield said in an interview with Business Insider. “The thing is you don’t know what it’s going to be or when you;re going to get it, and that’s what compels the brain to keep checking. It’s like the worlds smallest slot machine.”
While the symptoms of nomophobia seem cut and dry, there are other aspects and ways to tell if you’re addicted. Harris Interactive conducted a study to find out how often users check their smartphones and found that 63% checked once an hour. More interesting is that 9% of people in the study checked their smartphones once every five minutes. Some people can’t even leave home without their smartphones, even if just running a quick errand. In that same study, 63% of people surveyed said they would be upset if they left home without their smartphone. In fact, most would turn around and pick up their smartphone, no matter how short the trip. Nomophobia is just like any addiction in that the first step to solving the problem, is admitting you have one-though many people are in denial.
“As with any addiction, denial is the number one hallmark. There aren’t a lot of people who come out and say they have a problem, and the link with the anxiety they feel is much more tenuous,” psychiatrist Dale Archer gave his insight. “Plus, the symptoms are not that bad with the majority of people. Like any addiction, I suspect it will be like that- 1% of the population with a full-blown problem that affects their lives.” However, unlike many other addictions, nomophobia has yet to be added to the Diagnostic and Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) which is essentially the big book of mental health.
Some psychologists have proposed that nomophobia be added to the DSM, two of whom are Nicola Luigi Bragazzi and Giovanni Del Puente from the University of Genoa. Bragazzi and Puente said in their proposal, “It is undeniable that technology through new social media, social network sites, social informatics, and social software…enables us to perform our job more quickly and with efficiency.” They continued to say, “On the other hand, mobile devices can have a dangerous impact on human health. Further research is needed, above all academic and scholarly studies, to investigate more in depth the psychological aspects of nomophobia and to provide a standardized and operational definition of it.” Still, even if nomophobia was added to the DSM, it would only be a subset of the more obvious addiction to the internet. Dr Greenfield said, “A smartphone is just a more readily available access point to the internet. My research has shown that the ease of access, availability, and portability makes it twice as addictive as other modalities,” Continuing to say, “Convenience is the mother of addiction- the quicker you can get a hit back on the technology, the faster the intoxication.” Which seems like an extreme way to describe being happy when that special someone sends you a text, or maybe your crush swiped right for a like on Tinder. However, some parts of the world are already addressing this addiction head on- with force.
China has developed boot-camps that aim to stop nomophobia by disconnecting and completing military style training. Even here in the US, there’s a camp in northern California called Camp Grounded. At Camp Grounded you disconnect and participate in physical activities like archery, meditation workshops and sing-a-longs. Essentially, Camp Grounded is a camp in the sense that camps used to be, no technology just physical activity. Though Greenfield and Archer both have similar suggestions for curing nomophobia-just different attack strategies.
According to Dr. Greenfield, downloading an app like Menthol (link below) and figure out exactly how much time you’re spending on your smartphone. Mental records every last second of time you’re spending on your smartphone, and allows you to monitor your usage on a daily basis. After seeing how much time you’re actually spending on your smartphone, you can then put Archer’s methods to good use. Archer suggests that we set rules for ourselves of when we can, and can’t use our smartphones. “Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes,” Archer added, “It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow.”
Now we pass the questions on to you, do you think you’re addicted to your smartphone, how often do you check your device, and when do you make it a point not to touch your phone? Let us know down below or on our G+ page.