That moment when you realize you’ve left the house and you’ve got your keys, your wallet, and no cell phone.

Do you turn around and get it? What if you break down? What if you get into an accident? Do you ask to use the other guy’s phone?

How on earth did you survive pre-cell phones?

It’s amazing that this tiny computer, organizing and connecting us in our lives, holds such power. 

But “with great power comes great responsibility,” and it’s important for us to recognize when we’re in over our heads. 

What is the root cause of phone addiction?

Although it is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 ), cell phone addiction is popularly discussed among psychologists who have likened it to gambling. 

Each text, ring, and notification triggers a release of dopamine, our happy hormone, and fulfills our sense of reward. It is designed to leave us wanting more. Some argue this is by design because the creators of this technology know what happens to our brains when we are engaged, and they use it to their advantage.

In fact, a 2015 Scientific American article coined the term Nomophobia, or the fear of being without your phone, and an estimated 66% of the population have experienced this.

In addition, pathological phone use has given way to additional terminology, including textraphrenia, or the fear of being unable to send or receive texts, and phantom vibrations, the awareness that your phone is alerting you when it is not. Scientists from the National Center for Biotechnology and Information determined phantom vibrations are actually a hallucination syndrome.

What are the symptoms of cell phone addiction?

Scientists have not been able to develop a full list of phone addiction symptoms, but there is a consensus that the following should be areas of concern:

·       Compulsive checking: constantly checking your phone, even when there are no notifications or reasons to do so. This includes waking up in the middle of the night and checking your screen or picking up your phone while driving.

·       Anxiety or restlessness: feeling anxious when you are away from your phone or that panic that sets in when your battery is low.

·       Neglecting responsibilities: ignoring important responsibilities, such as work, school, social interactions, or your children, due to excessive phone use. 

·       Withdrawal: feeling irritable, restless, or lost when you are unable to access your phone. 

·       Social isolation: spending less time engaging in social activities and more time with your phone.

·       Physical symptoms: headaches, eye strain, neck pain due to excessive phone use., a highly regarded mental health resource site, created a 3-minute quiz to help you determine if you are addicted to your phone:

Regardless of your quiz score, we could all use a few healthy tips for how to set boundaries and keep those time-suck phones at bay. 

What are 5 steps to stop a phone addiction?

1.     Acknowledge the problem: as with any great intervention, the first step is to acknowledge there is a problem. Take stock of your life, including your relationships and social exposure, to recognize any negative impacts your cell phone usage may have. 

2.     Identify your triggers: what is causing you to constantly crave your phone? Is it social media recognition? Are you obsessively reloading your email for news about school? Are you missing out on social connections? Do you want to avoid eye contact and small talk out in public? Consider the factors that lead to your phone use.

3.     Set boundaries: go slow at first. Set incremental goals for reducing your phone use. This could mean allotting usage time throughout the day. Your phone isn’t for school during school hours. After school, spend time with your family, make dinner, and settle in for the evening.

4.     Reduce your notifications: if that screen lights up every two seconds, it has you hooked. It’s also draining your battery. Spend a minute in your notifications settings and shut off anything that is not dire. Then decide which notifications warrant a sound and which can simply blast as a banner.

5.     Use your phone to limit your phone: sounds counterintuitive, right? However, this phenomenon is not new, and phone manufacturers are jumping at the chance to help you manage your cell phone usage. Apple phones include the usage tracker Screen Time, found in your Settings, and Android utilizes the feature Digital Wellbeing to help its users get a data-based measurement of their usage.

The American Psychological Association’s study on limiting cell phone usage, or “Finding the ‘Sweet Spot’ of Smart Phone Use,” suggests conscious choices to limit time with your device led to a healthier lifestyle, including improved physical health and reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution or you’re interested in giving up a vice for Lent, a good old-fashioned phone detox may be your best bet for improving your relationship with your device.