Do you constantly check your cell phone for e-mail alerts, news updates, and the weather? If so, you could be one of the 66 percent of people who suffer from "no mobile phone phobia" — nomophobia — the fear of being without a cell or mobile phone, says SecurEnvoy, a UK-based Internet security and mobile technology firm who conducted the survey. Living in a revolutionizing digital age where everything is fast, instant and, most importantly, on-the-go, people are disengaged from having one-on-one face interactions. While Apple applications like FaceTime, and the program Skype help reinforce personal connections, the unhealthy usage of cell phone devices continues to escalate. According to the Morningside Recovery Rehabilitation Center, the average American spends 144 minutes a day using their phone. For those who suffer from nomopohbia, the fear of being disconnected from the virtual world is heightened when they are restrained from checking their phone. The lives of cell phone addicts are so contingent on their need to feel socially connected on their phones that without mobile technology, they begin to express a sense of vulnerability that can trigger certain moods and behaviors.
"Cellphones are addictive in the same way slot machines are," said Dr. Fran Walfish, child, couple, and family psychotherapist and author in Beverly Hills, Calif., to Medical Daily. "The immediacy of response, gratification, and excitation combine to make the user want more and want more now." This type of addictive behavior can be explained in a situation where a person is dining by themselves. Despite no sounds or alerts coming from the cellphone, addicts will take out their phones from their pocket and start to press buttons or scan their phones with their fingers for a sense of safety and security. While back-and-forth communication through text or e-mail is seen as a threat to replacing nose-to-nose contact, it is when you are alone with your mobile device that heightens this addictive behavior. The inability to sit by yourself in a public setting without reaching for your phone can be a means to cope with loneliness but it can also be detrimental to your mental health.
Predictors of Technological Addiction
Researchers have indicated that 77 percent of people aged 14 to 24 are nomophobic, compared to 68 percent of those aged 25 to 34. College students are most susceptible to developing the cell phone addiction because they are considered to be the heaviest users of information and technology with an increased usage of smart phones throughout the day. In a study conducted at Baylor and Seton Hall Universities, researchers evaluated cell phone, instant messaging, and texting addiction among college students. The average college student sends and receives approximately 109.5 text messages a day and checks their phone 60 times per day. The results of the study showed that materialism and impulsiveness are what drove cell phone addiction in these university students. "Cell phones are a part of our consumer culture," said James Roberts, Ph.D., author of the study and professor of marketing at Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. "They are not just a consumer tool, but are used as a status symbol. They're also eroding our personal relationships." The preoccupation of social status based on a mobile device and the impulsiveness that derives from sending and receiving instant messages and texts are strong predictors for cell phone addiction.
Cell Phone Addiction or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Cell phone usage while driving has accounted for 23 percent of car crashes in the U.S., reports Morningside Recovery. Using a mobile device while in dangerous situations, such as driving, has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) traits rather than addiction, says the University of Arkansas. Through the use of an online survey website, Moez Limayem, researcher of the study, professor and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the Sam M. Walton College of Business and a doctoral student, Zach Steelman collected data from 451 men and women from various age groups and locations. The researchers examined the potential link between cell phone usage and OCD behavior. The survey required all respondents to own a cell phone but it did not limit the sample pool by demographics. To avoid multiple responses, researchers traced the Internet-provided addresses and e-mail address. Common questions to identify OCD traits in cell phone users while driving were:
- I answer calls/emails/text messages while driving.
- I make calls and send emails and text messages while driving.
- I browse the Internet while driving.
- I check social network applications while driving.
The participants were also asked how many years they owned a mobile device and how many hours they spent talking, emailing, and texting. With more than half — 57.6 percent — of the participants of this online survey owning a smart phone, researchers found that the fine line between work and family life has been drawn thin due to accessibility to mobile devices. The comfort of receiving family-related messages at work and receiving work-related messages at home has developed an increase in the perceived responsibility that both types of messages are of greater importance and has as a result increased an excessive compulsion to check the cell phone.
While the OCD explanation of increased usage of cell phones has been linked to a reaction based on incoming messages, the addiction explanation reinforces that the constant need between a back-and-forth communication exists in high levels of cell phone usage.
Common Warning Signs of a Cellphone Addict
Whether you are simply a mere user of a cellphone or you are constantly connected through all social networking sites, it's time to put your mobile device down (no peeking) as Dr. Walfish, Dr. Elizabrth Waterson and Medical Daily will help you learn how to identify and recognize the common warning signs of a cell phone addict.
Excessive Compulsion To Check Phone
The need to frequently check your phone without having an incoming call, text, or e-mail can be a telltale sign of cellphone addiction. This reflects an unhealthy attachment to your mobile device and can severely impact your mental health. In a study commissioned by Nokia, researchers found that the average person checks their phone every six-and-a-half minutes, reports The Daily Mail.
Usage of Phone In An Inappropriate Place
Taking out your phone at the family dinner table can be an indicator of addictive behavior. "Many parents complain that when they take the family out to dinner their teenagers are constantly on their cellphones versus relating to their families at the table," said Walfish to Medical Daily. She suggests for parents to establish clear limits for their children and to take away their cellphones when they are being used where prohibited.
An unhygienic practice among cellphone users is taking their phones to the bathroom. While using the bathroom can be a very private and personal thing, bringing your phone into the toilet seat with you will not give you the due right privacy you deserve.
Replacing Face-To-Face Interaction
Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, psychologist at Morningside Recovery, told Medical Daily that one of the most common warning signs of a cell phone addict is missing out on opportunities for face-to-face interaction. Morningside Recovery Center is one of the first facilities to announce a recovery program that deals with patients who suffer from nomophobia, a form of therapy that teaches distraction techniques like "...stepping outside to have a face-to-face conversation with someone" when they want to reach for their phone, she said to Medical Daily.