While phone addiction is not classified as an actual disorder yet, there are many psychologists and doctors who are studying the long-term effects of consistent use and reliance on cell phones. There are several correlations between cell phone overuse and depression, anxiety, insomnia and even memory loss. Phone addiction is just like any other addiction; the brain senses pleasure in the use of the device, and pleasure receptors in the brain reward and crave more use, thus leading to addiction. Though causation has not yet been discovered for most of these, links and correlations have, paving the way for more research in this area.
Depression and Anxiety
There are several theories and studies that showcase varied reasons that our cell phones could be causing depression. Cell phones allow users a certain level of escape from reality. A study completed on college students found correlations between students who struggled with depression and anxiety, and those with addictive phone behaviors: “People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales”. Scientists are not certain as to the exact reasoning behind these theories, but many have stated that the overuse of a phone can make users feel disconnected with reality or lonely, bringing out depression and anxiety.
Melatonin is a natural hormone released by your brain that is designed to help your body relax and fall asleep. Studies have shown that the use of phones before bedtime may delay or limit the release of melatonin into the user’s body, thus resulting in restlessness or limited sleep. The light emitted from your phone can also confuse your body into thinking it is not time for sleeping, thus preventing the release of melatonin.
Constant use of a smart phone can be taxing on the brain, and has been associated with memory loss. Those who overuse a phone may have trouble with long-term and/or short-term memory. One factor that may contribute to this is the fact that we depend on our phones to remember facts, dates and other important information. This limits our practice in retrieving information on our own, thus weakening that skill. Some doctors have also found that phone use can make decision making and learning more challenging as well.
What Can Be Done About It?
There are many ways one can reverse phone addiction. Putting limits on when you use your phone and for how long is the first step to correcting phone overuse. You can start slow; dramatic changes don’t need to be made overnight. For example, if you currently use social media sites for hours, try limiting yourself to 20 – 30 minutes per day.
Some of us depend on social media sites for business purposes. If that’s your case, consider limiting your use to only business relationships. Also, avoid using your phone the hour before bedtime; pick up a book or magazine instead. Call a friend or meet up for lunch rather than chatting online. Try doing simpler tasks without your phone, such as adding the tip to your restaurant bill. These small changes can add up to big improvements over time to your health and wellbeing.