5 signs you're addicted to your smartphone

Many people can't be more than arm's distance away from their smartphones. Here are five signs that you may be addicted.

Sometimes referred to as Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone-phobia), the fear of not having your smartphone is real. It can trigger anxiety and symptoms that, in some ways, are not unlike the fear of not getting that next fix from a drug.


“Smartphones and the social media platforms they support are turning us into bona fide addicts,” according to an article published by Harvard University.

A man takes pictures as Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus go on sale at an Apple Store in Beijing, China Sept. 25, 2015.

A man takes pictures as Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus go on sale at an Apple Store in Beijing, China Sept. 25, 2015. (REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

“While it’s easy to dismiss this claim as hyperbole, platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible,” the article continued.

Five signs you may be a smartphone addict:

1. Your smartphone is almost always in your hand. You may not be able to stop checking social media, texting and using your favorite apps. You spend most of your free time looking down at your smartphone, elevating the virtual world to your primary means of social interaction and relegating the real world to secondary status.


2. You feel a sense of loss when separated from your smartphone. Problematic behaviors could include “feelings of irritability or of being lost if separated from the phone [and] feelings of unease when unable to use it,” said one study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. And if you are without your smartphone, you may have trouble finding something to do that is not connected to using the phone.

3. Virtual relationships become more important than real relationships. Sometimes referred to as "technoference,” a study from Brigham Young University examined how technology interferes with relationships. “While the big three disputes for couples' arguments used to be sex, money, and kids, it seems smartphones are rapidly rising up that list,” said Psychology Today, citing the study. "When your partner attends to a phone instead of to you, it feels like rejection," the publication wrote. Higher levels of technoference were associated with greater relationship conflict and lower relationship satisfaction.

4. You often lose track of time due to smartphone overuse. You don’t realize how much time you’re wasting on your smartphone since it becomes a coping mechanism. “Symptoms of smartphone addiction are … comparable to substance abuse, including … losing track of time, failed attempts to cut back on use, and using a phone as a coping mechanism,” said a report in Medium.


5. The draw to your phone is so severe that you check your phone while driving and/or you obsessively check your phone every time you come to a stop at a red light. Texting while driving is potentially lethal. “Last year, 6,227 pedestrians lost their lives to the hands of drivers who were most likely driving under the influence of a smartphone,” said a 2019 study from Zendrive, a data analytics company. “Phone addicts have positioned themselves as public enemy number one, replacing drunk drivers as the ultimate threat on public roads.”

If you recognize your behavior in some or all of these descriptions, consider taking a digital detox to possibly help reconnect you to your non-virtual life.