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Is Cell Phone Addiction Real?

The answer to whether mobile phone addiction is “real” is a complicated one, not because there aren’t clear cases of compulsive cell phone usage, and not because that compulsion doesn’t have detrimental effects on a person’s life, but because the classification of the behavior as an addiction is still a highly controversial one.

So, what is cell phone addiction controversy based on? In short, the issue that some doctors and scientists have with smartphone overuse is that they believe it doesn’t meet the clinical definition of an addiction, and is instead a new form of compulsive behavior that has come along with a new technological outlet (no pun intended) for such behavior.

But while there may be disagreements about what the correct categorical designation for compulsive cell phone use should be, no one is saying that it isn’t a real problem for some people, or that it doesn’t cause them real problems in their lives, or that they might not need professional help to deal with it.

Hands-Free Not the Answer?

The combined results of over 100 studies have shown that using a hands-free device while driving does not eliminate the distraction of carrying on a phone conversation.

The Real Dangers of Texting Addiction

Smartphone users who feel addicted to texting will inevitably send and receive messages and check their e-mail noticeably often, even as frequently as every few minutes. Over time, this compulsive behavior will inevitably have at least one kind of significant negative reverberation in their lives, in such forms as:

Neglecting responsibilities. The job or school performance of compulsive texters may suffer because they spend time and attention on texting that should be spent working — they may even receive and reply to messages during office meetings or classes.

Did You Know?

In 2010, the National Safety Council revealed that 28 percent of car accidents — or 1.6 million per year — involve drivers who were talking or texting on their mobile phones at the time of the crash.

Damaging relationships with friends and family. Checking your phone all the time and sending and receiving texts when you’re spending time with loved ones can be interpreted by them as a form of disrespect and a devaluing of your relationships with them. At best, you will be distracted and not giving them your full attention; at worst, your actions are telling them that they are not enough company to satisfy you or that you would rather be elsewhere (e.g., with those you are texting). Even if your texts are for business rather than pleasure, you are showing your loved ones that being present with them is not your top priority.

Causing a car accident. Using a cell phone while driving is hazardous, period, because it diverts your attention from the road, but texting is arguably even more irresponsible than talking — how can you safely operate your vehicle while your brain, eyes and hand(s) are busy with typing and reading messages?

Cell Phone Addiction Treatment

If you feel that your mobile phone usage (or that of someone you know) has crossed the line from enthusiastic or lifestyle-dependent into compulsive or addictive, and attempts at setting limitations, especially on frequency of checking for new messages, have been unsuccessful, then help from a therapist might be needed.

Whether a psychotherapist considers mobile phone addiction to be a subcategory of compulsive behavior or an addiction in its own right, they will likely address your problem through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that has been shown to be highly successful in the treatment of compulsive behaviors and addictions.

Your therapist may also assess whether any other underlying mental disorder, such as anxiety or ADHD, might be playing a role in your need to compulsively check or use your cell phone.

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