Good Question: Are We Addicted To Our Cellphones?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of us sleep with our cellphone nearby, or even in our beds. Almost one-third of people say they, “can’t imagine living without it.”

So, are we addicted to our cellphones?

“Most of us are not addicted,” Dr. Cheryl Bemel, a psychologist with Allina Health, said. “A habit is something we can control, an addiction is something that takes us over, physically and psychologically.”

Some experts say 5 to 6 percent of us have cellphone addictions. A term popularized in the media for this phenomenon is “nomophobia” — or the fear of being with no mobile phone.

Dr. David Greenfield is head of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He says, as a portal for the Internet, cellphones can be addictive – but that is not the case for everyone.

He lists five components of cellphone addiction. First, a person would use the device to alter their mood or consciousness. Second, he says there must be a component of tolerance, where people have to use it more and more. Third, he says cellphone addicts have withdrawal symptoms, including discomfort. Fourth, an addiction would negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Fifth, there needs to be a degree of preoccupation with the device.

Other experts says cellphones, and even the Internet, are not addictive, but rather the things people find online — like porn or gambling — stimulate us and create pleasure.

“Can you be addicted to bottles of wine that hold alcohol,” Robert Weiss, senior vice president of national clinical development for Elements Behavioral Health, said. “People are addicted to what’s delivered to them, not the device.”

Weiss says between 8 and 12 percent of people have problems with addiction. He points out those with gambling, drug or alcohol addictions are generally the same group of people.

“I don’t worry about most people, I worry about vulnerable people,” Weiss said.

The American Psychiatric Association does not consider cellphone addiction a disorder, but there has been a proposal to include it.

Bemel says that many of us are habitual cellphone users based on a primitive drive to be connected.

“It’s how we’re made, it’s how we’re hardwired and it’s all based on our sense of survival,” Bemel said. “As newborn infants, we have very few skills in terms of survival and we rely on our parents for everything, so it’s that innate drive to stay connected because if we don’t, we’ll die.”

She also says people believe Facebook and the other apps on their phone are nurturing. But in reality, our nurturing comes from face-to-face contact in everyday life with people we love.

More from Heather Brown
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