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Mental Health Matters

Internet/Smartphone Problems

On average, Americans spend on average 4.7 hours a day on their mobile devices, texting, posting to social media and using apps or the Internet. While smartphone and internet use are pervasive throughout our society, it can become a problem if it causes a person to neglect face-to-face relationships, family responsibilities, work, school or other important things in life.

Smartphone obsessions, also known as “nomophobia” (fear of being without a mobile phone), is often fueled by an Internet overuse problem. Smartphones, tablets, or the Internet can be habit forming their use can release mood-altering chemicals in the brain. It can become compulsive, continually searching for more information, distraction and/or stimulus.

Internet compulsions can include spending more time than wanted on:

  • Gaming
  • Gambling
  • Stock trading
  • Online shopping or bidding on auction sites
  • Web surfing
  • Watching videos
  • Searching Google
  • Checking news feeds
  • Online dating

Signs & Symptoms

You or a loved one may have an internet or smartphone obsession if you:

  • Neglect household chores or tasks at work because you spend so much time online or on your smartphone posting, texting, tweeting, etc.
  • Are becoming isolated from family and friends because of all the time you spend on your phone or other device.
  • Conceal your smartphone use or lie to your boss and family about the amount of time you spend online.
  • Get irritated or cranky if your online time is interrupted.
  • Feel intense anxiety or panic if you leave your smartphone at home, the battery runs down or your computer’s operating system crashes.

Tips & Recommendations

Human beings are not hardwired to rely solely on technology for social interaction. Face-to-face contact with another person makes us feel calm, safe and understood. Onscreen interactions cannot replace making eye contact, responding to body language, listening and sharing a laugh, and does not have the same effect on your emotional wellbeing. If you think you are having a problem with your internet or smartphone use, help is available by:

  • Strengthening your support network. Set aside time each week to spend with friends and family in-person.
  • Building your coping skills by finding other ways to express your feelings besides tweeting, texting or blogging.
  • Recognizing any underlying problems that may support your compulsive behavior, such as previous addiction to drugs or alcohol, depression or anxiety.
  • Understanding and appreciating the value of in-person interactions versus those online.

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help you develop new social or coping skills and manage your use of technology.

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