Cell phones: they are everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
People talk on their cell phones while driving, while in the movies, even while in the bathroom!
Comments such as, “I would die without my phone” or “Oh no, I lost my cell, what am I going to do?” can be heard on a daily basis.
The utter panic that people feel when they lose their phones is palpable. Then there is how indignant cell users get when they are asked to turn their phones off while in a movie or on an airplane.
Remember the Alec Baldwin/American Airlines commotion last year? It seems that the human populace has become addicted to the cell phone. But is that possible? Can someone literally become addicted to a cellphone?
Some researchers are answering that question with a resounding YES!
Real Addiction to Cell Phones
Research into the idea of a person becoming clinically addicted a cell phone has been going on for nearly a decade. So far, it seems that cell phone addiction is quite plausible.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is defined as:
“A primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
Therefore, when people exhibit such behavior over their cell phones, researchers then compare cell phone overuse to alcoholism and drug abuse. According to these researchers, it’s not how you use your phone, it’s how often. It’s this need to be in constant contact with the world that is the major sign of a cell phone addiction.
In a 2007 interview, Lisa Merlo, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the UF College of Medicine stated:
“It’s not so much talking on the phone that’s typically the problem … this need to be connected, to know what’s going on and be available to other people. That’s one of the hallmarks of cell phone addiction.”
However, since 2007, the threat of cell phone addiction has grown at an exponential rate and it looks to get even worse. In January, David Greenfield, director of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, told the Chicago Tribune that we are witnessing the origins of an epidemic.
“It will become a worldwide epidemic. It’s not here yet, but it will be.”
The Reality of Nomophobia
How real is cell phone addiction? Well, real enough for a high school senior to win a $75,000 scholarship based on a cell phone addiction project. (2)
Furthermore, the word nomophobia has hit the mainstream. Nomophobia is described as the anxiety one feels when they are without their cellphone. According to CNN, this anxiety can become so great that sufferers of the affliction will go as far as experiencing an anxiety attack if they do not have access to their phones.
In essence, the article claims that the cell phone has found a place in society as a “digital security blanket.” (1)
Cell phone addiction is comparable to a gambling addiction. Meaning that, for many addicts, using a cell phone activates pleasure centers in the brain. These are the same areas of the brain that are responsible for the release of chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.
Therefore, the user associates the feeling of pleasure or a sense of security with the phone because of the artificial release of these chemicals – just as someone with a gambling addiction associates slot machines with pleasure because of the chemical release that occurs when they win.
What lengths do people go to get that brain chemical rush? A recent study, reported by MSNBC, stated that over users check their phones as often as 50 times per day. Also, in a survey, 75% of people polled admitted that they use their phones in the bathroom!
Therefore, the addiction is very real. Society is quickly becoming dependent on the cell phone for more than just communication. Using a cell phone, or just simply having it nearby, is creating a false sense of pleasure or security, producing a very real chemical response in the brain.
Are you addicted to your cell phone? Find out. Tomorrow, turn your phone off and leave it at home. Spend the day without your phone. Then, in the comment section of this article, tell us how not having it for one day made you feel?