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Cell Phone Addiction

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Medically reviewed: 06/18/2018
Last updated: 05/15/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Cell phone addiction, also known as nomophobia, is becoming more prevalent with each passing year as the rate of cell phone use increases worldwide. An estimated 84% of people report being unable to make it through one day without using their cell phones. Cell phone addiction continues to be a growing problem and is linked to anxiety, reduced cognitive function, and impaired social functioning.

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When left untreated, mobile addiction can cause serious problems with your career, education goals, relationships, and social life. Fortunately, mobile addiction can be effectively treated at an addiction treatment center using therapies designed to improve cognition and change harmful behaviors associated with unhealthy cell phone use.

What is Cell Phone Addiction?

Cell phone addiction is a psychological dependence on the use of a cell phone. This addiction type shares many of the same traits as a behavioral addiction like compulsive gambling but is considered an impulse disorder.

Those who suffer from cell phone addiction tend to pay an excessive amount of attention to their phones and are unable to control urges to use. Smartphones tend to cause greater abuse than regular cell phones due to their many features, applications, and uses.

Problematic cell phone use has been linked to personality changes that affect impulsivity, neuroticism, self-esteem, self-identity, and self-image. Cell phone addiction has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and stress. For instance, mobile addiction can lead to stress when people isolate themselves and stop interacting with those around them so they can spend more time on their devices.

Mobile addiction can cause physical health issues including neck pain and poor posture. The blue light emitted from cell phones can even disrupt melatonin production to cause sleeplessness and insomnia. Mobile addiction is also linked to poor attention span, focus, and control, and can make you more vulnerable to distractions that prevent you from excelling at work, school, and other important life areas.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cell Phone Addiction?

Not everyone who spends lots of time on their cell phone is necessarily suffering from cell phone addiction. A non-addicted user can spend the same amount of time on their phones as an addicted user; however, non-addicted users tend to be more focused on concrete tasks such as replying to emails or reading. Addicted users feel the urge to be connected to their phones at all times, and may obsessively check for text messages, emails, and missed calls.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of cell phone addiction can help you determine whether it’s time for you or your loved one to seek professional treatment.

Signs of mobile addiction:

  • Using your cell phone for longer than initially intended
  • Spending a great deal of time using and recovering from excess cell phone use
  • Inability to cut down or control cell phone use despite trying to do so
  • Urges or “cravings” to be on your cell phone
  • Using your cell phone in situations that make it physically hazardous, such as texting while driving
  • Continued cell phone use despite adverse physical or psychological consequences of use
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not using your cell phones, such as restlessness, anxiety, and anger
  • Feelings of panic or anxiety about losing your cell phone
  • Feelings of irritability, anxiety, stress, and other mood changes when unable to respond to or receive messages
  • Checking your cell phone obsessively for emails, calls, and texts
  • Using your cell phone in inappropriate places like church or the restroom
  • Missing out on social opportunities and face-to-face interactions so you can use your cell phone
  • Loss of interest in favorite or long-held hobbies and activities
  • Frequent and constant checking of a phone within very brief periods of time
  • Using your cell phone frequently to achieve satisfaction and relaxation, or to counteract negative moods
  • Thinking you may have heard your cell phone ring or felt it vibrate when it hasn’t

Physical symptoms of mobile addiction:

  • Muscle pain and rigidity
  • Neck pain
  • Vision problems such as dry eyes, blurred vision, and eye fatigue
  • Pain and weakness in thumbs and wrists
  • Insomnia

How Does Cell Phone Addiction Interact with Drug Addiction?

Cell phone addiction can sometimes act as a “gateway” addiction to other behavioral addictions, impulse disorders, and substance use disorders. Those who suffer from mobile addiction may be at increased risk for drug and alcohol abuse on behalf of their inability to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, and due to symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia. Addicted cell phone users may use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate these symptoms, such as using benzodiazepines or alcohol to battle insomnia and help themselves fall asleep more easily.

A co-existing cell phone addiction and drug use disorder are known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Since many symptoms overlap between mobile addiction and drug addiction, these disorders are often treated at the same time to prevent one disorder from worsening the other or causing a relapse. For instance, a person diagnosed with opioid use disorder and mobile addiction who receives treatment for mobile addiction may continue to experience depression on behalf of painkiller addiction, and either relapse back to problematic mobile use or face a heightened risk for painkiller overdose.

A dual diagnosis can be safely and effectively treated at an addiction treatment center using drug or alcohol detox and behavioral therapies that address both cell phone addiction and substance use disorder.

How are Cell Phone Addiction and Substance Use Treated?

Cognitive and behavioral therapies are the most successful proven therapies for mobile addiction. These therapies can help you modify negative thinking patterns and behaviors associated with your addiction or that may be driving your addiction. These therapies also help you identify triggers that cause you to compulsively use your cell phone so you can learn to manage or steer clear of those same triggers in the future.

Therapies used to treat cell phone addiction:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Individual and group therapy
  • 12-step support group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Recreation therapy
  • Art therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to improve attention control and executive functioning in those recovering from cell phone addiction. CBT can teach you how to improve your attention span, manage your time more efficiently, and focus on other important tasks at hand. Group, 12-step, and family therapies can also help you improve social functioning so you can mend relationships with friends and family that may have suffered due to your cell phone addiction.

Use our treatment center directory to find nearby rehab centers devoted to helping you overcome cell phone addiction. Cognitive and behavioral therapies are available in both inpatient and outpatient settings and can be tailored to the lifestyle and recovery needs of you or your loved one.