Smartphone Addiction, What Causes It?

Recently, there has been a lot of media coverage regarding children developing smartphone addiction. Stories worry about detrimental effects on social and learning skills.

Step by Step Recovery agree that smartphone addiction is a growing cause for concern. However, what seems to have been neglected by the media, is the sheer number of adults that are struggling with smartphone addiction and how this impacts directly on the quality of their lives.

In this blog, we look at the causes of smartphone addiction, what the potential consequences of this can be and the recommended treatment options available.

Yes, You Can Be Addicted to Your Phone

At Step by Step Recovery addiction rehabs, we regularly treat individuals who have developed a process addiction alongside a substance misuse problem. A process addiction is an addiction to an activity involving ritualistic and obsessive behaviours.

Process addictions are extremely common in today’s society, they can be very self destructive and hurt those close to you, yet they are often overlooked. Smartphone addiction falls into the category of process addictions.

Scientific studies have shown that obsessively checking your phone can lead to depression and anxiety. Receiving notifications from your phone lights up the same reward pathways in the brain that alcohol and drugs do – when you are addicted.

There does not have to be a physically addictive substance involved to develop an addiction. Addiction is created in the human brain and not in the alcohol, drug or activity. The ritualistic behaviour that shrouds addiction is all part of the disease.

Smartphone Addiction Supports Social Media Addiction

The smartphone is a tool for accessing applications that encourage addictive behaviours. This includes highly addictive social media applications and games. It can also be a tool to enable other behavioural addictions such as codependency, gambling, pornography, sex addiction, shopping addiction and love addiction.

Not every individual who owns a smartphone will take an interest in the numerous social media and other various applications available, but research indicates that a high percentage of smartphone users are uncomfortable with the amount of time they spend on their phones.

Smartphone Addiction Is More Common In Individuals With Anxiety And Depression

A UK study conducted by psychologists at Nottingham Trent University and Derby University, studying smartphone usage patterns amongst 640 participants aged between 13 and 69, found those that suffered from anxiety, depression, emotional problems or an unstable home environment were more likely to be addicted to their smartphone.

Professor Zaheer Hussain who assisted in conducting the study from Derby University said: “Problematic smartphone use is more complex than previously thought and our research has highlighted the interplay of various psychological factors in the study of smartphone use.

“Emotional stability is characterised by being stable and emotionally resilient and in our study we found being less emotionally stable was associated with problematic smartphone behaviour.

“This is because people may be experiencing problems in their lives such as stress, anxiety, depression, family problems, so in that state they are emotionally unstable, meaning they may seek respite in very excessive smartphone use. This is worrying.”

The professors concerns are valid, as whilst there is an addiction to address, there is more often than not underlying emotional and psychological factors that require professional exploration, treatment and healing.

Causes of Smartphone Addiction

When we are considering the causes of smartphone addiction, it is important to take into account all contributing factors. There are certain groups of individuals that are at higher risk of developing this emotionally painful disorder.

  • Those suffering from mental health illness such as anxiety and depression
  • Children and teenagers as their brains are still forming and vulnerable to addictive processes, change and substances
  • Those that have an addiction that a smartphone enables and supports
  • Those that have an unstable homelife or stressed work environment

The thing about addiction that many individuals do not understand, is that people who become addicted often have a reason to escape their past or current reality.

Signs and Symptoms of Smartphone Addiction

Signs and symptoms of smartphone addiction include:

  • The thought of losing your smartphone genuinely terrifies you.
  • You obsessively check your phone even when there are no notification noises
  • You are unable to spend any period of time separated from your phone. Examples of this may be whilst you are eating, in bed, with family or friends, watching a movie or doing something that requires concentration and your undivided attention
  • You hear your phone notifications going off when they don’t
  • Do you feel a rush of anticipation whenever you hear a smartphone notification?
  • Ritualistic behaviours around your phone. Examples of this may be checking your phone throughout the night when you wake up. Taking your phone to bed until you fall asleep. Checking your phone first thing in the morning as soon as you open your eyes and frequently being caught up in activities on your phone that you struggle to stop.
  • You neglect your family and friends and struggle to stay present in favour of using your phone.
  • Others have suggested that you are addicted to your smartphone
  • Others have expressed resentment or upset at the amount you use your phone
  • You feel anxious, depressed, on edge and/or difficulty sleeping

Treatment for Smartphone Addiction

When it comes to treating smartphone addiction successfully, complete abstinence is strongly suggested. Yes, this means trading in your smartphone for phone that just handles the most basic operations, i.e calling and messaging. If you have an addiction, you may well feel discomfort and increased anxiety at first. This will pass.

It is also recommended that you address the underlying causes. This could mean speaking to your GP about how you’re feeling or asking for some counselling sessions.

If you have a substance addiction in addition to a behavioural addiction, please call Step by Step Recovery. We can assist with a private bespoke drug detox or alcohol detox and abstinence-based recovery programme; tailored to ensure you have a very personalised treatment experience within our private rehabs.