Coping with Cell Phone Addiction

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

As cellphones have become prevalent in modern society, some people have a significant issue with not being able to disengage from their cell phone. So-called “smart phones,” which combine functionality of an organizer, browsing the Internet, playing tunes, and taking pictures, only worsen the reliance on one’s cell phone. While using such devices for everyday tasks, work, and socializing with friends and family is perfectly normal, not being able to put them down while engaged in a conversation with your significant other or a friend who’s sitting in front of you may denote an increasing problem.

According to research on cell phone addiction, addiction danger signs included running up huge bills and having irrational reactions to being without a phone if you forgot or lost your mobile.

According to that same research, 22 percent of these people considered themselves to be heavy or very heavy users and 8 percent had experienced monthly bills that were over $500.

What to Do to Better Cope with Cell Phone Addiction

If you feel like you can’t part from your cell phone or have run up huge bills unexpectedly, don’t worry, there are some steps you can take to bring your relationship with your cell phone back down to earth.

1. Track your cellphone use. Yes, it’s a pain to do, but the more you keep track of the time you spend messaging or talking on your cellphone, the better you’ll be able to control it. Jot down in a notepad when you’re talking, messaging, or conducting other activities on the phone. Keep the journal for a week’s time, then review the amounts of time you’re spending on each activity.

2. Start the weaning. Now that you know you’re spending 10 hours a week on messaging, it’s time to start cutting back. Take it slow and start with the least important activity you use your phone for. Commit to reducing the time spent on that phone activity just 10% the first week. So if you’re spending 10 hours a week on messaging, aim for 9 hours the next week. That means being more conscious each time you’re using the phone for that activity, and trying to cut things short sooner rather than later.

3. Commit to being in the moment. One of the reasons people use their cell phones as much as they do is to be with another person in another place. That’s fine when we’re waiting in line at the post office, but less acceptable when your significant other or a friend is trying to have a conversation with you. Commit to turning the cell phone off, or at least putting it away out of sight, when engaged in a face-to-face conversation with another person. It’s not only helpful to your addiction, it’s far less rude and you may be surprised to learn you’ll regain these people’s respect.

4. You don’t need that kind of connection. So many people spend so much time on their cellphones because they believe it is a necessary part of their connections with others, or with their ability to be reached and respond instantly to any and all kinds of communications. For what purpose? If you need such hyperactive connectivity, that suggests something isn’t entirely healthy with some of those relationships to begin with. Quality social, work and romantic relationships aren’t built on 180 character sarcastic notes constantly exchanged with one another. While it’s fun for a time, it’s not going to lead to a higher-quality relationship or a better, more enjoyable life (especially if it’s creating anxiety and problems in your existing life).

5. You’re not as important as you think you are. Some people check email via their cell phone incessantly (e.g., “crackberry”) because they believe something so important might come up it requires their immediate attention. Sure, I can understand in some positions, some jobs, that’s true. But for 99.9% of people and jobs, it is not. Even if you’re the CEO of a company, there’s virtually nothing that could come up that can’t wait until you get back to the office. Remember, if it’s that important, someone will call you.

6. Turn it off. Yes, that’s right. Turn it off. There’s nothing you need to do in the middle of the night that the cell phone will alert you to that won’t be there in the morning (unless you happen to be the President, then you might want to keep your cell phone handy). By turning it off and putting it away, you’re taking back conscious control of your life and this little piece of technology. Instead of it calling to you, you’re telling it, “Hey, I’ve had enough for one day. Seeya in the morning.” Set a deadline every evening for a time to retire the technology, and then don’t check or use it again until the next morning.

7. Technology works for us, not the other way around. If technology is taking control of your life — creating stress, anxiety, arguments with other people in your life, or financial hardships — then you have a backwards relationship with technology. Technology works for us. If it’s not working for you, you’re chosen to be on the losing side of the relationship, and it’s time to put a stake in the ground and take responsibility and control for your use of the technology. Set aside specific times of the day or evening you will use your cell phone, for instance, rather than checking it every moment you get.

Cell phone addiction doesn’t have to ruin your life, your work, or your relationships with others. If these tips still don’t help, it might be a sign that cell phone addiction is more of an issue in your life than you realized. A psychotherapist who has experience in treating addictions can often help in such a case, and it is a treatment you should explore if you can’t reduce cell phone use on your own.

 

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2007). Coping with Cell Phone Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-cell-phone-addiction/0001018
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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