Can You Be Addicted to Your Cell Phone?

Can You Be Addicted to Your Cell Phone?

Can You Be Addicted to Your Cell Phone?

Can You Be Addicted to Your Cell Phone?Cell phone use has become a common feature of daily life in the U.S. and throughout much of the rest of the world. Some people, especially young adults and teenagers, rely heavily on their phones and use them frequently throughout the day. In a study published in August 2014 in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, a team of American and Spanish researchers assessed the potential for the onset of cell phone addiction in young men and women attending college. Such an addiction would fall under the heading of a form of non-substance-based addiction called behavioral addiction.

Cell Phone Statistics

Nine out of every 10 adults in the U.S. owns a cell phone, according to figures compiled in early 2014 by the Pew Research Center. Over half of all U.S. adults (58 percent) own a smartphone that combines basic phone services with Internet access and a vast range of user-downloadable applications or “apps.” Men are slightly more likely to own a cell phone than women (93 percent vs. 88 percent). Use of these devices is roughly equal across the country’s main racial/ethnic groups. Specific demographic groups particularly likely to own a cell phone include adults between the ages of 18 and 49, people with at least some college education, people who make at least $50,000 a year and people who live in suburban communities. Specific demographic groups most likely to own a smartphone include Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans, adults between the ages of 18 and 29, adults with at least an undergraduate college education, people who make at least $75,000 a year and people who live in urban and suburban communities.

Behavioral Addiction

Some people develop clearly dysfunctional patterns of behavior when doing such commonplace things as eating satisfying food, having sex, spending money on shopping, using the Internet and participating in some form of gambling. A large and growing body of scientific evidence indicates that, in at least some cases, the underlying cause for the development of these damaging behavioral patterns is a change in brain chemistry that mirrors some of the changes produced by repeated exposure to alcohol and a range of mind-altering drugs and medications. Because of the core similarity between substance-based addiction and the non-substance-based problems found in affected individuals, experts in the field have created a new category of diagnosable addiction called behavioral addiction (also known as addictive disorder or process addiction). People with such an addiction have symptoms that can include loss of control over participation in a given behavior, use of the behavior as a way to avoid unpleasant situations or feelings, exposure to strongly negative outcomes related to involvement in the behavior and continued involvement in the behavior after such harmful outcomes occur.

Cell Phone Addiction

In the study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, researchers from Baylor University, Xavier University and Spain’s International University of Catalonia used an online survey of 164 college students to explore the typical patterns of cell phone use in young men and women on university campuses. Each of these students answered questions regarding their level of involvement in 24 cell phone-based activities, including such things as sending and receiving text messages, taking photographs, browsing the Web and communicating through popular social media platforms.

The researchers came to several conclusions regarding the patterns of cell phone use in the college students taking part in the study. First, women engaged in cell phone-based activities roughly 10 hours per day, while men engaged in such activities roughly eight hours per day. In descending order, the most common reasons for using a cell phone were sending/receiving text messages, sending/receiving emails, using Facebook and playing music.

About 60 percent of the students enrolled in the study believed that they might have problems with addictive cell phone use. Self-reported potential signs of such an addiction included experiencing negative consequences from inappropriate cell use in classrooms or at work, using cell phones as an excuse to avoid dealing with unpleasant situations and experiencing a notable increase in mental agitation when cell phone use was not an option. Specific activities associated with these indicators included use of social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest.

The study’s authors believe that potentially addictive patterns of cell phone use among college students are largely the result of a perceived need to maintain social contact with others. Further research will be needed to determine if dysfunctional cell phone use meets the minimum requirements for the diagnosis of behavioral addiction

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