Signs of Cell Phone Addiction to Watch Out For


Compulsive phone use, also known as cell phone addiction, is an increasingly common behavioral addiction experienced by people all around the world.

Excessive cellphone use has been linked to mental health issues, poor physiological health, and can impact someone’s quality of life.

It is important to recognize the common signs of cell phone addiction and what to do if you suspect addiction in yourself, or a loved one. In this article, we will cover:

  • What phone addictions are
  • The role of neurotransmitter disruption in smartphone addiction
  • The various physical, behavioral, and emotional signs of phone addiction
  • How to overcome cell phone addiction

Let’s get into it!

What Is A Phone Addiction?

Smartphone addictions are behavioral addictions, which occur when someone compulsively overuses their cell phone.

This often occurs when someone has become so dependent on their device that they fail to meet their other obligations or become socially withdrawn as they spend the majority of their day using their phone.

It can also be termed ‘nomophobia’, or the fear of being without your cell phone.

Phone addictions are closely related to internet addictions, as people often use their smartphones to access the internet.

Other people may excessively use their phones to fulfill other addictions, such as online gambling addictions and pornography use. It is important to tell these addictions apart.

Phone addictions have negative impacts on people’s health, and lives. Phone addictions can impact someone’s physical health, mental health, and neurological well-being.

GABA Dysfunction

People with cell phone addictions have been found to have disrupted neurotransmitter levels.

People with smartphone addictions release a higher level of the neurotransmitter called GABA. GABA is one of the neurotransmitters that is involved in the reward-addiction pathway. This influences the levels of dopamine released in the brain, influencing addictive behaviors.

This means that the long-term overuse of cell phones can change the brain function of people (especially young people), which can have an influence on their motivation levels and overall quality of life.

The Signs of a Cell Phone Addiction

Physical Signs of Cell Phone Addiction

  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances: Phone addictions are often related to sleeping problems due to exposure to blue light, which impairs the release of melatonin which helps us sleep. Engaging in stimulating content before bed can also prolong the time it takes to get to sleep. Additionally, people with cell phone addictions often stay up late using their phones, impairing their normal day-night rhythms. This can result in daytime tiredness and a loss of energy
  • Digital eye strain: When someone with a cell phone addiction has been looking at their screen for long periods of time, they will often experience digital eye strain. This includes symptoms such as blurred vision, dry and sore eyes, as well as headaches
  • Posture-related issues: People who excessively use smartphones will often develop poor posture, due to the sustained downward gaze. This is often termed ‘text neck’
  • Physical discomfort and pain: If sustained for long periods of time, cell phone addictions commonly lead to physical pain. Because of the posture most people adopt when using their phones, there is significant strain put on the shoulders and back. This will often result in pain in these regions. People who show excessive phone use may also experience sore eyes, and headaches due to looking at a screen for prolonged periods of time.

Behavioral Signs of Cell Phone Addiction

  • Constant checking of the phone: People with mobile phone addictions will find it incredibly difficult to go without checking their phone. This may look like being in a social setting and constantly getting the urge to check their phone
  • Inability to resist notifications: One of the ways that smartphones are designed to be addictive is by constantly sending notifications. For people with cell phone addictions, these notifications will become irresistible. Even if they are in social settings, driving, or working, they will feel a strong compulsion to check these notifications
  • Neglecting responsibilities: People with any kind of addiction will begin to neglect their responsibilities, as they spend a long period of time trying to fulfill their addiction. This may look like withdrawing from social activities, spending less time engaging in their hobbies, or using their smartphones inappropriately at school or at work
  • Escalating usage over time: Smartphones are designed to encourage excessive smartphone use. When someone begins to develop a cell phone addiction, they tend to spend increasingly long periods of time using their phones.

Emotional Signs of Cell Phone Addiction

  • Anxiety and restlessness: People with phone addictions often suffer from greater levels of anxiety. This may also result in avoidance of social interactions, impaired sleep quality, and problematic behaviors
  • Irritability when unable to use the phone: One of the key warning signs of this type of addiction and excessive phone use is the negative emotions experienced by someone who cannot use their phone for any period of time. They may become frustrated, anxious, and shifty when separated from their phone
  • FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Cell phone overuse is encouraged by the false sense of ‘missing out’ that is built into phones when they are being used. Missed notifications, posts, and comments are constantly being sent to phone screens, which can result in feelings of being disconnected and fear of being left out
  • Depression and mood swings: Because of the psychological effects of not engaging in face-to-face contact with people, staring at a screen all day, and suffering from addiction, people will often experience depression and mood swings.

How to Overcome Cell Phone Addiction

  • Setting limits on phone usage: Setting specific phone-free times can be a great way to limit cell phone usage. Additionally, there are apps available that can block certain apps on your phone, and help you limit your phone usage. These include Freedom, Moment, and Space
  • Establishing phone-free zones and times: Designating certain spaces to be phone-free such as the dinner table, or bedroom is a great way to try to limit mobile phone usage and begin to get some of your time and control back
  • Seeking professional help if necessary: Mental health professionals are a great tool to use to help overcome excessive phone use.

They can help to identify the underlying cause of the addiction and manage any barriers to limiting their excessive phone use. Some great tools to use include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Marriage or couples counseling
  • Group support
  • Psychotherapy
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Encouraging alternative activities: Engaging in other, phone-free activities can serve as a great excuse for a ‘digital detox’.

Although this will be challenging for people with phone addictions, it can be a great tool to get your mind off your phone and can help regulate neurotransmitter levels.

Final Thoughts

Cell phone addictions are behavioral addictions that occur when excessive phone use impacts someone’s everyday life.

Some tell-tale signs of cell phone addictions include an inability to resist being on your smartphone and irritability that is experienced when you cannot be on your phone.

It is important to recognize phone addictions, as they can have serious consequences on someone’s health and quality of life.

With the right support, there are many ways to overcome cell phone addiction.


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