Posted on October 17, 2014 in adolescent addiction treatment

Smartphone Use May Worsen Addictions

Smartphones are here to stay. Most Americans have one and for good reason. With a smartphone you can connect to the Internet and social media sites, check email, text, and make a good, old-fashioned phone call. So much convenience in the palm of your hand is hard to resist. There are problems with smartphones, too. The constant connectivity can lead to obsessive use, compulsive behaviors, and even addiction. Smartphone use can make you sleep less and increase your stress. New research now tells us that obsessive use of smartphones can worsen other compulsive behaviors and addictions.

Smartphones Enable Addictions

One important way in which smartphones worsen addictive behaviors is that they create access and make certain negative behaviors easier to engage in. For example, for someone with a pornography use problem, a smartphone makes access to online porn easy, quick and anonymous. Drug users can quickly connect with a drug dealer via text. People who tend to obsess over games can play them to their hearts’ content and do so nearly anywhere as long as there is a connection to the network or wifi. Even social media addiction is a real problem and is made worse by having a constant connection via smartphone.

Smartphones Distract From Real Problems

Smartphone use can be a distraction from dealing with addictive behaviors and other real-life problems. This distraction can worsen an addiction or a mental health issue. Everyone is at risk, but young people are particularly susceptible. A teen with anxiety or depression might use his smartphone as a coping mechanism instead of working through emotions or taking a chance on making contact with people in real-time.

Using the smartphone can also make mental health issues worse, especially anxiety disorders. Research has found that heavy smartphone users begin to feel anxious when unable to access their devices for even 10 minutes. Even among people who are not considered heavy users of their smartphones, going an hour without them can produce significant symptoms of anxiety. There may even be evidence for a new phobia: nomophobia is the fear of being without your smartphone.

Can Smartphones Help?

It seems that smartphones, although they do not cause addictions, can worsen them. They enable and distract, but is there a possibility that they could be tools for good? There are a number of smartphone apps designed to help people quit habits of all kinds. Some are designed for helping addicts in recovery avoid relapse, while others are meant to help you cut back on a bad habit before it gets worse. Some apps can direct you to the treatment facility or support group that could help you.

Whether these apps work is has yet to be seen. No expert at this stage would recommend that an app replace the face-to-face interaction and work that goes on between a therapist and a patient or between an individual and his support group. However, these new apps may be useful tools for those dedicated to making real change.

Smartphones are important technological tools. They have allowed us to connect with each other on an unprecedented level and have changed the way most of us live. For many of us, these changes have been positive and make us feel safer, more connected and more efficient. For some, though, the smartphone is a dangerous tool. Be aware of how your smartphone usage affects your life. If it makes you anxious or if it impacts your other activities or responsibilities, it may be time to cut back and seek professional help.

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