Addictive behavior: Are you addicted to your smartphone?

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

Is your cell phone attached to you at all times? Are you obsessively staring at it, browsing the Internet or catching up on the latest social media posts? You’re not alone. Cell phone use can easily become a habit and when used excessively, can be extremely addictive. Did you know that the average college student today uses a smartphone for up to nine hours a day?

According to a recent study published this summer in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, Professor James Roberts from Baylor University discusses how some cell phone users show some of the same symptoms that drug addicts have. The study conducted asked college students how much time they spent on different activities on their phone and then were asked to agree or disagree with statements that suggested possible addiction such as, “I get agitated when my cell phone is not in sight.” The information that they got varied a bit between men and women, with women showing more signs of addiction if they used Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon or other apps that allowed them to use their phones like an iPod. Men however, showed more signs of addiction if they used their phones for reading books or for Facebook and Twitter. It was determined that women use their phones more often to nurture social relationships, whereas men use it more for information and entertainment. Of course, not everyone will show signs of addiction with their smartphone, but it is very important to note that technology – which is meant to be just a tool – can truly become addictive for people. When the tool no longer becomes a tool, but instead a necessity that you cannot live without every second of the day, there is a problem. (1) 

Ask yourself these questions to determine if your phone has too much control over you. 

-Do you get nervous when your phone is not nearby?

-Do you check your phone multiple times every hour?

-Do you use your phone to cheer you up or lift your mood? 

-Do you find that your phone use is causing you to be distracted or not focused on being present? 

-Is your phone use causing your real life relationships to suffer?

If you know that your cell phone use is excessive, take some steps to eliminate its control over your mind. Take a “vacation” from technology, whether it’s a day or a week. Don’t use your phone or check your email and instead, take that time away from screens to recharge and reconnect with people. Focus on being present, too! Remind yourself to focus and engage in the real world around you. Exercise, stay active, and keep your mind alert by reading books and continually learning. Schedule some of your free time away from screens and embrace life in a new way. If you are struggling with withdrawals from using technology, talk to a health professional that specializes in this type of addictive behavior. 


1. Kowalski, Kathlann. “Watch out: Cell phones can be addictive.” Science News For Students. September 17, 2014. Accessed October 12, 2014.