Although cell phones allow individuals to have unlimited access to information and to connect with others in a way otherwise thought impossible, there are many harmful and disturbing effects of smartphone dependence.
Cell phone addiction, is a behavioural addiction thought to be similar to that of an Internet, gambling, shopping or video game addiction and leads to severe impairment or distress in one’s life.
India has the world’s second-highest mobile phone users with the figure standing above one billion. As per one study, 79% of the Indian population between the age group of 18 and 44 have their cell phones with them almost all the time, with only two hours of their waking day spent without their cell phone on hand.
Signs and symptoms of cell phone addiction:
Although cell phone addiction is not yet officially listed in psychiatry literature, it is comparable to gambling addiction with clear diagnostic criteria.
A need to use the cell phone more and more often in order to achieve the same desired effect.
Persistent failed attempts to use cell phone less often.
Turns to a cell phone when experiencing unwanted feelings such as anxiety or depression.
Excessive use characterised by loss of sense of time.
Has put a relationship or job at risk due to excessive cell phone use.
Need for newest cell phone model, more applications, or increased use – the tolerance.
When the cell phone or network is unreachable or cell phone is discharged, feeling of anger, tension, irritability or/and restlessness.
Physical effects of cell phone overuse:
Overuse of your cell phone or smartphone can result in a number of different physical problems that may cause permanent damage or be difficult to treat, including:
Digital eye strain
The pain and discomfort associated with viewing a digital screen for over 2 hours.
Eyes begin to burn and itch.
Digital Eye Strain can cause headaches.
Direct exposure to blue light – like the one that comes from cell phone screens – can cause damage to the retina of the eye.
Hearing too loud:
Simply chatting on the phone may not damage your hearing, but if you use your smartphone and headphones for listening to music then you might have cause for concern.
A number of young persons suffering from noise induced deafness are rising.
The Dangerous Decibels public health campaign states that repeated exposure to noises above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss – approximately the noise level of heavy traffic.
The maximum volume of a smartphone is around 105 Listening to music at this volume for more than four minutes would likely result in damage to hearing.
Even if you lower it to just 94 decibels, you can cause damage if you listen for over an hour.
Neck pain resulting from looking down at a cell phone or tablet for too long.
Cramped fingers, wrist pain and muscle pain due to continuous texting and scrolling on the touch screen of a smartphone.
Occipital neuralgia – a neurological condition where the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp become compressed or inflamed.
Phone surface- a source of bacteria:
The average phone has 10 times more bacteria than that are found on a toilet seat! Yes, 1 in 6 cell phones has faecal substance on it and no matter how clean your toilet seat is, you’re probably not going to let it touch your face.
E. coli bacteria, which can cause fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea, are found on many phones.
Phones have been found to be contaminated with MRSA which causes painful abscesses and sometimes life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, bloodstream, heart valves, and lungs.
Using a cell phone while driving reduces brain alertness level by 37%. By making devices hands-free or voice-activated is not sufficient to eliminate distractions while driving.
Though many people believe that they can multitask and use their phones while driving, but this causes significant impairment and puts the driver and others on the road in danger.
Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
Preliminary studies have revealed that cell phone radiation may decrease sperm count, sperm motility and viability.
While it’s not clear if the radiation from cell phones and other connected devices generate a strong electromagnetic field.
The World Health Organization already classes cellphones as ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans’.
Psychological effects of cell phone addiction:
Sleep disturbance: Increase in sleep disorders and fatigues, insomnia, decreasing sleep quality, takes to fall asleep.
Obsessive compulsive disorder
Relationship problems and conflicts
Impaired work performance
Regain your independence
While cell phone addiction is a fairly new concept there are a few treatment suggestions.
Identify the problem
Be honest with yourself and answer truthfully whether you think your usage of your mobile phone is impacting your social life.
Go ahead slowly and steadily
Overcoming any addiction requires taking small steps, one at a time. Trying to achieve too much in one go will do you more harm than good. Just because you are addicted to your phone it doesn’t mean that you have to stop using it, after all, it is a valuable tool. Just cut down on the amount that you use it. Try spending some time away from your phone, even an hour a day will make a difference to your perceived reliance on it. Go for a walk and leave the phone at home. Stop carrying it around with you at home, leave it in one place and get on with some other activities.
Set time periods in which you shouldn’t use your phone (i.e., 9 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
Designate activities in which your phone is forbidden (e.g., driving, dinner time).
Schedule break times to access your phone or social media.
By restricting the amount of time that you spend each day away from your phone you will be working towards regaining your independence from it. So that eventually you will once again view it as a communication tool rather than a lifeline to a virtual world.
Relaxation techniques- Meditation
Help you to cope with your cravings to use your cell phone or access social media.
Smartphone addiction therapy
Pharmacotherapy: Although there are no current FDA-approved medications to treat smartphone addiction when combined with psychotherapy, medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics can help to treat Internet addiction.