Is Your Phone Affecting Your Mental Health?

Posted on April 22, 2023

depressed man next to his cell phone

Smartphones — our faithful digital companions — are now a part of everyday life. For many, it is the first thing they look at when they wake up and the last thing they do before going to sleep. We can’t go very long without checking our devices and feel anxious if we leave them at home.

Cellphones In Today’s World

Device usage has increased significantly since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, particularly among children. Their total daily screen time increased by almost 3 hours from December 2020 to August 2021, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. Additionally, a staggering 85% of American adults use smartphones as of 2022. Last year it was estimated that 47% of web traffic in the U.S. originated from mobile devices.

In just a few years, mobile phones have gone from a way to get in touch when you weren’t home to devices that can plan and run your entire life. The smartphone has become associated with everything you do. Despite their usefulness as navigators, communication devices, research tools, and entertainment providers, smartphones have a darker side. While there is no official disorder called “smartphone addiction,” many mental health experts compare it to compulsive behavior. There is significant anecdotal evidence that suggests we can become addicted to our phones.

Can Cellphones Affect Mental Health?

While a centralized resource for organizing everything is wonderful, it can affect your mental health in negative ways.

  • Less Cognitive Ability. Thanks to smartphones, we no longer need to memorize phone numbers or addresses, or even know how to use a map to navigate. Over-reliance on smartphones can lead to mental laziness.
  • Reduced Focus. The constant interruptions caused by smartphones can lead to shortened attention spans and make individuals more easily distracted, reducing productivity and focus.
  • Increased Stress. Smartphones have become stressful electronic leashes for many, one that even follows along on days off or on family vacations.
  • Loss Of Interest in Daily Activities. Smartphones have addictive qualities. They manifest as a loss of interest in other activities, anxiety when you cannot send or receive messages or are away from your phone, device use in dangerous circumstances or where prohibited, and irritability when separated from your phone. Overuse can create a psychological dependency.
  • Weakened Social and Emotional Skills. Smartphones weaken social and emotional skills. The more time you spend on your phone, the less you spend interacting in person. This makes it more difficult to build the personal connections that are important for mental health. Children are learning to engage in passive activities instead of being actively involved with other people. Smartphones create relationship stress by taking your attention away from the people around you.
  • Overuse Of Social Media. Overuse of social media and lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to depression and anxiety. Most people only post about the best parts of their days or the highlights of their trip. Some people become depressed when their normal lives do not match the ideals everyone else posts. On the positive side, social media can be a beneficial way to keep in touch with distant friends and family — as long as it does not interfere with in-person interactions.
  • Social Anxiety. FOMO, a.k.a. Fear of Missing Out, is exacerbated by smartphones. It is a desire to do or be aware of everything. It can lead to social anxiety and is often triggered by social media posts. When we constantly believe we are missing out, we can become anxious or depressed. As Science Daily stated a few years ago, focusing too much on what others are doing or thinking “… only fuels an anxious mindset that we must be ‘missing out.’”
  • Depression. FOMO and depression can become a “negative feedback loop.” People with FOMO are more likely to use their phones as a coping mechanism and are likely to become more depressed or anxious as a result. Smartphone use can be an avoidance behavior that keeps people from addressing real-world issues and certainly takes you away from more productive pursuits.
  • Sleep Disturbances. Using smartphones before bed can cause sleep disturbances. Most screens emit light tilted heavily towards the blue end of the spectrum, mimicking the color of the sun. This can confuse the body’s biological clock by suppressing melatonin production, making restful sleep difficult. A whole industry has evolved to address this issue — from apps that adjust screen color and brightness based on the time of day to “blue blocking” computer screen eyeglasses.

Healthy Ways To Use Cellphones Without Interfering With Mental Health

There is a simple way to protect your mental health without giving up your phone: simply be aware of how you use your phone, and prioritize other activities — particularly in-person interaction.

Many devices let you track your screen use time. Monitor it and set limits. If you spend excessive time on social media, delete the apps and only check them from your computer, or install an app that will limit the time they’re usable. Create daily device-free time for family or hobby time.

Setting reasonable limits will help you focus on the real world and regain some of your mental sharpness and clarity.

Why Choose Rising Phoenix?

Rising Phoenix Wellness Services is a licensed mental health and substance use disorder Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We created our addiction and mental health treatment program to offer a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment where clients are embraced, not judged, throughout their recovery process.

We offer programming based on Integrity, Innovation, Confident Humility, and Mindful Leadership. Let us help you protect and improve your mental health.

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