Of all the addictions affecting men from their teens to their thirties, which one do you think is growing the fastest? Booze? Wrong. Drugs? Wrong again. The addiction that is causing more damage to the mental health of normal, sociable blokes – blokes just like you – has nothing to do with illicit substances or mind-altering chemicals, and everything to do with your phone.
Don’t say it out loud, but living in a world where apps, messaging and social networking are available in the palm of your hand has come at a price. Recent surveys have revealed that a growing number of relationships are breaking down due to obsessive Facebook and Twitter checking on mobiles, while the number of anti-anxiety medication prescriptions doctors are dishing out to young men is growing exponentially, fuelled largely by a country-wide obsession with 24/7 communication.
What's more, a new survey conducted by Asda has today shown that a staggering one in ten Brits check their phones 65 times a day, and one in 50 more than 200 times a day. Perhaps more disturbing is the stat that one fifth of us use phones to lull us to sleep, whlist the same number also regularly make calls when on the loo.
Phone addiction is no longer a rare, ‘novelty’ addiction – recent estimates on the number of UK addicts range from two million to Ofcom’s gobsmacking statistic that more than one in three young men currently suffer from phone addiction. Right now you’re probably thinking: ‘Yeah, I use my phone a fair bit – so what?’ Well, you may not be aware of it, but new research has found that the pang of excitement we feel when our phones flash, bleep or vibrate is starting to change the structure of our brains in the same way that booze, drugs or gambling do. Scientists have discovered that smartphone users need a bigger hit every time they reach for their phone, which in turn is changing the way their lives are lived – for the worse.
So, the big question: are YOU addicted? Well, just take this test, then scroll down to find out...
- Do you check your Facebook or email from bed before you get up in the morning?
- Do you leave your phone turned on at night? (Putting it on silent doesn’t count…)
- Do you get your phone out on the loo?
- Do you check Twitter or other social networking sites from your phone more than 10 times a day?
- Do you find yourself restless or irritable when you attempt to cut down or stop using your phone?
- Do you struggle to concentrate on work when you know you’ve got an unread text message?
- Are you spending increasingly lengthy periods of time on your phone each day?
- Have you ever jeopardised or lost a significant relationship, job or career opportunity because of your phone usage?
- Do you find yourself regularly checking your phone even when you are enjoying a film, TV show, sporting event or night out?
- Have you ever been on a date during which you’ve spent more than 30 seconds in one go texting or checking the internet?
- Do you often think ‘that would be a great status update’ when you something funny pops into your head?
- Do you send more than 20 text messages a day?
If you answered yes to 0-5 questions…
…Congratulations, you don’t have a problem! Text/email/Facebook your mum and let her know.
If you answered yes to 6+ questions…
…You have a problem. “You need to learn to regulate your smartphone usage,” says Dr Anna Albright, a cognitive behavioural therapist (annaalbright.com). “Some of the successful behaviourial methods include switching the phone off at agreed times, restricting compulsions to check the phone and replacing smartphone time with other meaningful pursuits.” Achieve this by setting up this simple to-do list, which features a number of tasks that you should try to implement in stages rather than all at once. Try one to two a week, until all ten are in play.
How to wean yourself off - 10 easy-to-do-steps
- Make your bedroom phone-free at all times.
- Delete your work email account from your personal phone.
- Limit the number of texts you are going to send in a day (choose a set number and don’t go above it).
- Delete apps that you don’t need on your phone, like Facebook and Twitter.
- Make playing games on your mobile a treat/reward.
- Turn off your phone at night.
- Don’t work on your phone outside normal working hours.
- Listen to music from a device other than your phone.
- Use a physical diary rather than one on your phone.
- Schedule in some ‘phone time’, during which you can make all your calls and texts.
The next steps…
Once you’ve mastered these, set intervals of two hours between each time you check your phone (NB: if that’s going to affect your work, you can easily set up an auto-responder to explain you can be contacted by calling). Done that? Great, now experiment with short periods of inaccessibility by leaving your mobile at home for one day a week. “For most people, it will feel like ?a two-week vacation,” says Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. “Don’t worry, any initial anxiety you may feel doing this for the first time, will pass quite quickly,” he assures.