The Webster dictionary defines the word ‘addiction’ as a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behaviour, or activity that has harmful physical, psychological, or social effects, and typically caused well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence. Usually an addiction is partially defined by three C’s:
Control: The act of using a substance or performing a behaviour out of control or in excessive amount.
Compulsion: Having a profound mental preoccupation with and using a substance (or engaging in a behaviour) in an automatic manner, without actively choosing to do so.
Consequences: Continued use in spite of negative social, physical and mental consequences.
Despite the fact that mobile phones are an inseparable part of our lives, connecting us with others, keeping us updated, providing us a lot of beneficial information, there are various noxious effects of obsessive use of smartphones. It can lead to severe psychological and physical impairments. Mobile phone addiction, sometimes also called problematic smartphone use, is a behavioural addiction and is thought to be similar to that of addiction to gambling, shopping, or video games, and leads to severe distress in one’s life.
Some psychiatrists believe that mobile phone addiction is no different from any other type of addiction (e.g., drug addiction) and that mobile phone addiction has become one of the most prevalent non-drug addictions. Because of the widespread accessibility of cell phones at a younger age now, teenagers are especially prone to developing an addiction to their cell phones or social media. Nowadays, teenagers use their phones overnight, which affects their health and makes them difficult to focus on their studies. It has been reported that problematic Internet use may affect sleep quality, due to reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, slow-wave sleep and sleep efficiency, or suppressing onset time of melatonin secretion and delay in the beginning of sleep due to the bright light of a mobile screen at night.
Cell phones have become a symbol of social status, so there is a pressure to own the latest release and to have the best apps available. Approximately 75% of people have said they are rarely more than five feet away from their handset at any time. This is what is called as “nomophobia”, the fear that being away from your phone somehow disconnects you from the world. According to a Baylor University study, mobile addiction can be as addicting as drugs and alcohol for some. It is fact that an average person unlocks his or her phone 110 times each day. Too much dependency makes us “mobile addictive”.
Surprisingly, worldwide more people have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. Today the world has 3.5 billion smartphone users that account for 45.12 per cent of the global population. If the figure of feature phones is taken into account, the total number of mobile users in the world stands at 4.78 billion, which makes up 61.62 per cent of the world’s population. While China tops the list of countries with most mobile phone users, with over 8.51 million, India is placed second with 3.46 million.
People use mobile phone as a solution to boredom. They feel anxious or depressed when the phone is out of their range. This makes them addictive. A research says when cell phone use becomes an addiction, the behaviour becomes stressful. Though there is no solid proof between cell phone addiction and risk of tumours, but the possibility still exists. Too much dependency can turn out to be dangerous. Wherever we look, in almost every street of the town or village, we always find people glued to their mobile phones. People don’t have the time to spend with their families. Not only adults, it has gripped even kids almost in every home. Toys are no longer playthings for children and because of easy accessibility to mobile phones, kids spend most of their time on phones than they do playing outdoors. It is also proven that chronic phone overuse changes reward circuits in brain chemically. The primary affected neurotransmitters is gamma-amminobutyric acid (GABA). It is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which produces both calming and euphoria effects, and control anxiety and fear. Phone overuse can decrease or increase GABA production and disturbances in the GABA can be a warning sign of addiction.
It is so unfortunate that many parents allow their children to use mobile devices to keep their children engaged and prevent them from getting naughty, which can interfere with their ability to concentrate on textbooks and are also detrimental to their mental and physical health in the long run. Although cell phone addiction is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), research has compared it to gambling addiction, which has clearer diagnostic criteria and is included in the DSM-5. The criteria for cell phone addiction is indicated by four or more of the following signs and symptoms:
• Preoccupation: a strong desire for the internet. Thinking about previous online activity or anticipation of the next online session.
• Withdrawal: manifested by a dysphoric mood, anxiety, irritability and boredom after several days without internet activity.
• Tolerance level: marked increase in internet use required to achieve satisfaction.
• Difficult to control: persistent desire and /or unsuccessful attempts to control, cut back or discontinue internet use.
• Disregard or harmful consequences: continued excessive use of internet despite having knowledge of persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems likely to be caused or exacerbated by internet use.
• Loss of social communication and interest: loss of interests, previous hobbies get impacted because of continuous mobile use .
• Alleviation of negative emotions: use of the internet to escape from a dysphoric mood (feeling of helplessness, guilt).
In conclusion, it’s very important to break this addiction. It takes patience to break an addiction, to stay away from the phone, to avoid using the phone before going to bed, to set a time limit for most of the apps we use, to turn off notifications and to leave phones in bags while at school, college or work. These are all ways to break the addiction. The process of breaking an addiction may seem challenging at first, but once the addict reaches a point where he or she succeeds, it will change the rest of his or her life.
The writer is a BSc Nursing student at AIHST Srinagar. [email protected]