Opinion

How smartphone addiction damages your health

Smartphone addiction, especially for youths, is very real. Several surveys and researchers have been carried out on the addictive use of smartphones by young people – who spend more time and apparently can’t do without their phones. So what makes us so eager to play with our phones instead of engaging in real life? Experts say our brains get a hit of dopamine and serotonin – the chemicals linked to happiness – when our phones beep or ring. These are the same chemicals that give drug users their ‘high’! Smartphone addiction exists, and just like with other addictive substances, withdrawal can be long, painful and accompanied by complications, some of which are:

1. Nerve Damage:

Smartphones don’t just affect your health on a day-to-day basis – they may also cause long-term, incurable side effects such as occipital neuralgia – a neurological condition where the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp become compressed or inflamed. This condition causes symptoms similar to those you’d experience with a severe headache or a migraine.

2. Anxiety & Depression:

Spending so much time staring at a screen can lead to anxiety and even depression, as people expect constant updates and interaction from friends, and worry when these aren’t received. For every minute you’re fondling with your phone, you’re missing out on a minute of exercise, of cooking healthy meals, of real-life human interaction – all of which are important for good mental health.

3. Stress:

Having a smartphone means we’re always ‘available’ – to take calls, text messages, instant messages, social media notifications and emails. The workday no longer finishes at 6 pm, as emails and chats continue to push through late into the night. The need to immediately read and respond to every one of these incoming alerts is causing rising stress levels.

4. Disrupted Sleep:

Most smartphone users ’ ages 18 to 29 fall asleep with a cell phone, smartphone or tablet in their bed. This reduces one’s sleeping hours.

5. Social Effects:

Instead of making us more connected, our smartphones could be making us more isolated. Not only are we more distracted and less ‘present’ in social scenarios thanks to our cell phones; we’re also becoming less connected to our peers on a deeper level. Smartphone use is also likely to make us more selfish and less likely to engage in ‘prosocial’ behaviour.

Prosocial behaviour is defined as an action intended to benefit another person or society as a whole – like volunteering or simply helping out someone in need.

6. Text Claw:

Text claw isn’t a medical term (yet), but its symptoms are very real. Sufferers experience cramped fingers, wrist pain and muscle pain thanks to continuous texting and scrolling on the touchscreen of a smartphone. This occurs because of inflammation of the tendons. It can also exacerbate existing inflammation from tendinitis.

If this happens to you, take a break from the cell phone, ice the area regularly, try some wrist exercises and your food with some pain-killing herbs and spices, many of which will work to reduce the inflammation.

7. Indirect Injuries:

Aside from the injuries directly caused by your phone – like occipital neuralgia or carpal tunnel syndrome – a cell phone addiction can increase your risk of indirect injuries, like from a nasty fall or car crash. Even pedestrians are at an increased risk of causing accidents.

8. Eyesight:

Direct exposure to blue light – like the one that comes from cell phone screens – can cause damage to the retina of the eye. Retinal damage of this nature may lead to macular degeneration, which causes the loss of central vision (the ability to see what’s in front of you).

To save your eyes, limit the amount of time on your phone and follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes take 20 seconds to focus on something 20 feet away.

9. Hearing:

Simply chatting with someone on the phone won’t damage your hearing, but if you use your smartphone and headphones for listening to music, then you might have a cause for concern.

One source of such noise is from headphones, like the ones that come with your phone. If we listen to music that is too loud, we can damage the tiny hairs in the inner ear, which transmit chemical signals through nerves to the brain.

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