Mobile phone addiction

Not so many years ago.

Those who saw Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on black and white televisions may remember the old hand-crank telephones. The crank was turned and connected to a switchboard. Then the operator took note of our call.

After minutes or hours, depending on the mood of the day, the call came through. In small towns the telephone operator was an important and feared figure. Whether a phone call was more or less fast depended on her.

Then, the automatic telephones appeared, where by means of a wheel we dialed the number that interested us. Public phone booths were essential in cities. Today, most are shattered and a relic of the past.

In 1983, Motorola introduced the first mobile phone to the general public. Nobody could think then that that act was the beginning of a revolution in the lives of millions of people.

Since that day the evolution of mobile phones has been incessant. Every time they have gotten smaller and more “intelligent”. They have incorporated Internet communication. They are powerful databases of unlimited knowledge.

Mobile phones allow you to take photos and videos of extraordinary quality. They communicate and allow videoconferences between the most remote places in the world. We can watch television on them, our favorite videos. They have us connected to social networks all day. They are essential.

Mobile phone addiction: Everyday situations.

Mobile phone addiction Everyday situations.

There is no doubt that all the advantages, listed above, are true. But like all things in life, mobile phones also have their drawbacks.

The main one of these disadvantages is the addiction to the mobile phone that can be created in the users. Rigorous studies are not necessary to confirm this assertion. It is enough to take a walk down the street, on any given day, to convince ourselves of the addictive power of the mobile phone.

Let’s look at some situations, so frequent and everyday, that make us forget the strangeness they entail.

A distracted executive.

We are on Madrid’s Gran Vía, at a busy traffic light, where all pedestrians wait for the traffic light to turn green to cross the street. When this happens, everyone crosses quickly. The traffic light is already flashing and the cars are ready to move on. A young executive, well dressed, begins to cross fully concentrated on his latest generation smartphone. The traffic light turns red and drivers whistle at the pedestrian in the middle of the street, unaware that he may be run over.

Traffic accidents due to mobile distraction.

The friends in the park.

We walked through the Parque del Oeste, near La Moncloa. It is a beautiful afternoon that invites you to stroll through the Madrid gardens. On a bench a group of adolescent girls are sitting and absorbed in a task, apparently of maximum concentration.

They do not speak to each other, they do not look at each other. They are all absorbed, looking at the screens of their mobiles. They are communicating by WhatsApp with each other. Having a mobile so that they will spend their saliva talking. What a waste of time!

The family eating.

The members of a family are sitting at the table eating. Parents and two middle-aged sons savor the food. This must be very good, because everyone is focused on their dishes, no one speaks and the silence is total. It does not go unnoticed that every so often, one of the members smiles while looking at the screen and typing on the screen of their smartphone.

A couple in love.

We are in a central cafeteria, in the Plaza de Colón. A young couple in love are at a discreet table sharing refreshments.

We could think that they caress and cuddle, or that they exchange tender loving glances. It is not like that, each one is with their mobile, probably watching YouTube videos or the last photo that their friends have uploaded to Instagram.

We could continue like this, listing situations that we experience every day. What happened? What happened to the communication? How have we reached this degree of dependence on the mobile phone?

Mobile phone dependency.

Mobile phone dependency.

We must not confuse a mobile user and a mobile dependent person. Luckily, not all people who use the mobile are dependent on it. This issue is cause for concern and more and more study is being conducted on this matter.

We could say that most of the studies carried out confirm that out of every two people with a mobile phone, one of them ends up developing a strong dependency.

What is mobile phone dependency?

We can consider that a person has dependence on the mobile phone, when he makes abusive use of it, uses it in inappropriate situations or places and when he needs to be in permanent contact with the mobile phone, feeling the pathological need to have it at hand at all times. moment.

This definition of dependence on the mobile phone brings the behavior of these people closer to that of other behaviors that have been considered pathological for years.

Currently the APA (American Psychiatric Association) in its DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) does not include mobile phone addiction as a recognized specific pathology. However, its similarity to other disorders makes us think that it will not take long for it to be recognized as a pathological entity.

We could say that mobile addiction shares common features with impulse control disorders and substance use disorders.

Mobile addiction is like addiction to alcohol or cocaine.

The mobile addict needs to consume the information that he gets from the telephone and that gives him immediate satisfaction. The telephone or more properly its use or the information it provides become like alcohol or drugs.

On the other hand, we can see in the imperative need to interact with the telephone , a certain resemblance to other behaviors such as gambling or kleptomania.


The person addicted to the mobile cannot be without their precious object. Leaving home without a mobile phone is a source of strong anxiety. The realization that you are in an area with no coverage is distressing for you. Running out of battery without the possibility of recharging immediately is a trauma.

Although we have already said that it is not a recognized disease as such, we use the term nomophobia , to designate the behaviors of those people who, when deprived of their smartphone, feel an exaggerated and irrational fear, which is not related to the real situation and who it causes a serious damage to their social, family and work relationships.

Nomophobia shares the characteristic features of specific phobias or common phobias .

Is Mobile Phone Addiction Harmful?

The question seems rhetorical and answers itself. The damages derived from mobile addiction are directly proportional to the degree of dependence on the telephone.

We can mention as harmful effects of the use and abuse of the telephone the loss of concentration in daily daily activities, such as study, work or driving.

School failure.

According to the INE (National Institute of Statistics), the use of mobile phones is increasingly frequent among young students. At ten years of age, 30% of students spend all day with their mobile. At age 15 this percentage has shot up to 90%.

The increase in school failure and the use of mobile phones are directly related. The Israelis carried out a study a few years ago, which revealed that 95% of their students used the mobile constantly in class.

In this sense, a study by the Autonomous University of Catalonia confirms these data. It also links school failure, not only to mobile phones, but to new technologies in general. In France, legislation has been amended to prohibit the use of mobile phones in classrooms. In Spain its use is not prohibited, but there is a clamor from the teaching community regarding the regulation of its use.

Mobile addiction in young people is becoming worrying.

Labor layoffs.

As it cannot be otherwise, the improper use of the mobile phone at work reduces the concentration of the worker and their work performance. It is increasingly common to read in the press news about the dismissal of workers who make abusive use of mobile phones. Legal claims on this issue have proliferated and the Supreme Court has established jurisprudence on this matter:

“The sporadic use of the mobile phone during the working day in contravention of internal regulations is cause for reprimand, which if repeated may be grounds for dismissal for disobedience to the orders of the company.”

Recently, the high court reaffirms in the aforementioned:

“The low performance at work, occupying part of the working day with personal matters, including the habitual use of the mobile phone and sending messages by” whatsapp “and emails, neglecting even incoming calls from the department, justifies the dismissal” .

Traffic accidents.

We have already mentioned the danger of crossing a street looking at the phone. The General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) in 2017 carried out a campaign to minimize the number of traffic accidents. The slogan of the campaign was: “It is clear that you know how to pass. In the car, it also happens on the mobile ” The result was disappointing.

The statistics are staggering. Only 2% of traffic accidents involving pedestrians are NOT the fault of the mobile phone. In Spain there are no fines for pedestrians who cause accidents due to the improper use of mobile phones.

If we refer to drivers, the figures are not better. In 2017, out of 10 serious or fatal accidents, three of them were caused by driver distractions. Guess what is the main cause of distraction behind the wheel? Well yes, you guessed it: Inappropriate use of the phone while driving.

This year, in view of the poor result of the campaign carried out, the DGT has launched a new offensive, with a strong deployment of devices (cars with radar, drones, helicopters) to punish the use of mobile phones at the wheel. It is possible that what they have not achieved with “nice” campaigns they will achieve with heavy financial penalties and loss of points.

Social relationships.

The abusive use of the mobile phone has other harmful effects, in addition to those already mentioned. It is worth mentioning the loss of interest in maintaining social relationships. The mobile phone addict lives “hooked” by and for his mobile and “passes” olympically from his environment. This leads to a deterioration of their family and work relationships and a distance from their friends. The end result can be social isolation or the development of anxiety disorders, such as social phobia.

Emotional disturbances.

Being continually aware of the phone leads to pictures of anxiety, when they are deprived of it. In addition, they can develop emotional disturbances, such as irritability, unstable mood, or aggressiveness when interrupted or required to pay attention to everyday tasks.

Nomophobia: Intense dependence on the mobile phone.

Are you addicted to mobile?

Are you addicted to mobile

The issue of addiction to new technologies in general and to mobile phones in particular has tried to be quantified using scales and tests. In 2013, the Center for Technology and Internet Addiction published a very interesting test, developed by one of its researchers, David Greenfield. In the following link you can access their website and complete the questionnaire.

Both this, and other tests developed to quantify dependence on mobile phones, should be interpreted as a merely indicative diagnosis. It may be advisable, in case of obtaining a high score, to consult with a psychologist specialized in addictions.

Other forms that can be carried out to measure dependence and the degree of addiction are the one developed by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) and the one presented on its website by the Psicoactiva association.

Treatment of mobile addiction.

Treatment of mobile addiction.

The therapeutic approach to mobile addiction is fundamentally psychological. Only in very severe cases, it will be necessary to resort to drugs such as anxiolytics or antidepressants from the family of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

We could consider that the psychological therapy of the mobile addict is very similar to that of the patient with addiction to alcohol, cocaine or cannabis. The basis of addiction is similar, but the end goal is different. In the case of an alcoholic, we want him to completely abstain from consuming alcohol and this objective must be pursued throughout his life.

In the case of the mobile addict, what we are looking for is awareness of misuse and the development of skills to gain control of these technologies. That is, we do not seek the total abandonment of mobile use, but the responsible and controlled use of it.

In the treatment of addiction, the purpose that drives the person to compulsive use of the telephone is investigated. Some use it to maintain abundant social relationships, others to watch videos on YouTube. Some may use it to search for relationships, etc.

Once we have ascertained the end pursued by the subject, we must delve into the ultimate motivations underlying the addiction. These can be very varied: shyness, difficulty in social relationships, low self-esteem, isolation, loneliness, family or parental rejection, etc.

To the extent that we know the true cause of addiction, we can begin to work on it in therapy, to be able to overcome them. In any case, the therapeutic approach will be individualized and personalized, because behind each case of mobile addiction there is a different person and problem.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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