Can Smartphone Addiction Cause Depression?

It is undoubtable that a ‘smartphone’ is generally a useful tool that is used for smart things related to both work and play. However, what if its utility becomes a hindrance to your well-being – a smartphone addiction if you will that leads to depression? 

smartphone addiction depression

Your ‘smartphone’ is likely with you most of the time. You use it to connect with your friends and other loved ones, record some of life’s important moments, keep you entertained when you are bored, use it for work purposes, and even gain access to useful Internet information that may help when you are lost. The extent of its usefulness is immeasurable.

The utility of smartphones has become central to many cultures and societies. However, this is not necessarily a good thing. In countries like South Korea, research has shown that over 70% of children around 12 years old own a smartphone. A majority of these young smartphone owners spend more than five hours per day using them — creating a social epidemic of sorts, as almost 25% of these youngsters are considered by researchers as smartphone addicts. In another study, half of the parents reported that their children appear addicted to smartphones and tablet computers.

Younger and older people alike, how attached are we to our smartphones? Time magazine conducted a worldwide survey to further answer this question. Approximately 74% of people reported they could not go more than one day without their phones, and of that group many reported they could not go more than a few hours. Likewise, the survey found that people are more or less constantly checking their phones, with 64% of people checking their phone at least once an hour.

What does this suggest regarding the social habits of current and future generations, and to what extent can separation from your phone lead to depression? Research is mounting that shows there is a likely connection.

Does Smartphone Dependence Exist and Does It Cause Depression?

Yes; smartphone addiction is real. There is even a term for it: ‘nomophobia,’ or ‘no mobile phone phobia,’ which is the onset of severe anxiety upon someone losing access to his or her smartphone.

Smartphone addiction is likewise not only just a teenager issue; it can affect the mental health of adults as well. Over 60% of adults surveyed around the world reported that smartphone usage has an effect on their self-esteem. For example, they feel good when they receive positive feedback through social media platforms (often viewed through their smartphones). However, when some smartphone users did not receive positive feedback, some started to develop a negative attitude toward themselves and even lose their self-confidence over time.

The Connection between Smartphone Addiction and Depression

The psychological health effects caused by smartphone use have for some time been talked about, and further studies are suggesting that addiction to, not simply the use of, smartphones and other mobile technology is linked to anxiety and depression.

While it may not yet be conclusive whether smart phone usage specifically causes depression, researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found a correlation between depressed people and the amount of time they spent using their smartphones.

According to the study, researchers tracked two weeks of phone use and GPS data from study participants’ smartphones. It was discovered that levels of depression experienced correlated with the amount of time that he or she spent using a cell phone – more time on the smartphone equated to higher levels of depression.

The average daily smartphone use by those experiencing depression was 68 minutes, compared with 17 minutes by those without depression. Overall, the smartphone data was 87 percent accurate in identifying people with symptoms of depression, according to the study authors, who published the findings on July 15 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Another study about the link between smartphone use and depression was conducted in Korea, for the purpose of looking at the relationship between smartphone addiction tendency and depression (among other behaviours). University students were surveyed regarding the ways they used their smartphones, their reasons for doing so (such as to avoid negative emotions or alleviate boredom), about their current general state of mental health, and also how they would feel if (or when) the Internet (or their smartphone) is not available. They were also asked about how their smartphone use affects their work or academic performance.

Results from the survey showed that students with existing symptoms of mental health issues, such as depression, were prone to exhibiting signs of smartphone addiction and vice versa. According to the survey, ‘Depressed people cannot control their emotions, and the symptoms last for a long time…Clinical factors such as anxiety, depression, and obsession are reported to have influenced on the smartphone addiction.’

The causal connection between an individual’s mental health and the motivation for excessive smartphone use is still being researched and tested to find out more about exactly which one causes the other.

Using a Smartphone Regularly is Different from Smartphone Addiction

Simply talking on your phone and connecting with people online is not going to make you depressed or form an addiction. It is even fine to use your smartphone when you are bored or when you otherwise need to use it. However, if this behaviour turns into an incessant sending of texts, checking emails, surfing the web and tweeting, and the smartphone device is used as a pacifier to temporarily liberate you from worries and find solace from negative feelings, you may be at risk of becoming a smartphone addict.

Can Someone Recover from a Technology Addiction?

Yes, and behavioural-based treatments for smart phone addiction involve some of the best ways to treat this technology addiction and get a patient started on the right path to recovery. For example, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) features step-by-step ways to reduce compulsive behaviours and can help to change one’s perceptions about smartphones and even address related Internet addiction. Over time, the patient will learn the skills necessary to cope with and address negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or stress.

As the individual may be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, which means they have both an addiction and a mental health issue such as depression, the two need to be treated in conjunction. Because smartphone addiction is one of many process addictions, studies have shown that addictions can be controlled, and addicts can achieve full recovery from such addictions.

The Cabin’s “Recovery Zones” treatment model, not only has its basis in CBT but is also designed to treat addictions where total abstinence cannot be practiced in recovery, such as the case of smartphones, as one may need a smartphone to conduct work and for other necessary communication in daily life.

If you have noticed that a loved one is becoming increasingly isolated and their social life is suffering due to their compulsive use of his or her smartphone, it is essential that you urge them to get them to seek therapy services.

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