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I Need Help With My Phone Addiction

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Phone addiction refers to a compulsive need to check ones phone, which can lead to anxiety and aggitation when that need cannot be satisfied. Phone addiction can lead to a variety of negative consequences, including loss of sleep, distraction, negative self-esteem, and neglect of other areas of ones life (e.g. hygiene, friends).

If you suffer from phone addiction, here are some steps you can take:

1) When trying to make any sort of change in your life (e.g. quitting a substance, changing your eating patterns, going to the gym), you should start by paying attention to how you feel when doing the task that you're trying to change. What you are trying to notice are the elements you don't like about the experience. For example, if you notice that you are having a craving to check your email or refresh Instagram, how do you feel about that craving? If you have been on your phone for a while and you are mindlessly scrolling, how does that feel? If you weren't able to finish other tasks because you are staring at your phone, how do you feel about that? The more you can notice the negative elements of a behaviour, the easier it will be to change the behaviour.

2) Another important step is to create a schedule for when you can use your phone. The more concrete you can be, the better. Start by shrinking the window of time you are allowed to use your phone. For example, you could wait 20 minutes after waking in the morning before you are allowed to check your phone. Similarly, at night, you could set a limit of 9pm when the phone needs to be turned off and put away. It is important to remove the phone from your sight, as you will be tempted to use it if you can see it. Completely shut if off and put it in a drawer, or give it to a partner, or put it somewhere inconvenient. Creating an obstacle to checking the phone will give you a moment to consider whether you actually want need to check it or if you are just engaging in the habit of checking.

3) It is also worth considering what function checking your phone serves for you. Why is it that you are spending so much time on your phone? What are you getting from the experience? When do you tend to check it the most or when are your longest stretches of using the phone? For many people, they are on their phone all the time because they are avoiding feeling their emotions. Staring at your screen and distracting yourself means you can avoid feeling overwhelmed with your life, or anxiety about avoiding a task. Maybe the phone allows you to feel less alone in the evenings, or gives you a vague sense of fun when addictively playing a game. Your phone addiction is telling you something important about needs that are not being met and the only real way to break the addiction is to start addressing what's missing in your life.

4) Once you have spent a bit of time reflecting on which needs are not being met (e.g. connection to others, fun), you can start to brainstorm how to meet them in healthier way. For example, if you recognize that you are bored with your evenings, what types of things did you enjoy when you were younger? Did you love to paint? Play sports? Read? Pick one activity you used to love and set a goal of doing it 1 time this week in the evening for 10 minutes. The reason we are setting such a small goal is that we are slowly trying to build up a routine. Tell people in your life that you are trying to add this new routine to build more motivation. Put a post it note on your mirror reminding you to do the activity and what you will get out of it. Example, if you are going to start reading in the evening, put on the posit it: "Read for 10m on Monday - it will help calm me down". Writing what you will get from the experience moves it from a job you have to do, to something that is internally motivating and beneficial.

Here is a book that may help:

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