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Are You Addicted to Your Phone? Here’s How You Can Cut Screen Time

Smartphones are everywhere, but is that making people more dependent on them and unable to control how they use them? Learn about smartphone addiction and how to break the addiction cycle for good.

By Aditi
25 Mar 2022

Indians use the most mobile data globally, an average of 12GB per month in 2021, which definitely isn’t a small number. According to the National Health Authority of India, we have over 600 million smartphone users. Phone addiction is becoming a rising concern for many, and it only begs the question, how much phone time is too much?


While you might have jokingly asked yourself, ‘Am I addicted to my phone?’, few take their screen time seriously or actually do something about it. Here’s what you should know about phone addiction and how to prevent it before it affects your life.


Related story: Staring at Your Phone Might Be Harming Your Skin


Can You Even Be Addicted To Your Smartphone?

The medical community often debates whether smartphone addiction is an actual medical condition or not. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders only recognizes compulsive gambling as a behavioural issue, it doesn’t dismiss the danger of phone addiction. Many similarities exist between behavioural addictions like compulsive gambling and phone addiction.


If you haven’t heard about phone addiction, here’s the basic gist– it is obsessive use of a smartphone that has gotten beyond control. A recent study by app analytics firm App Annie shows that Indians spent 4.7 hours a day on average on their phones in 2021. When you start feeling anxious or stressed when your phone isn’t around, it may be a warning sign that you may need to monitor your cell phone usage. Some symptoms to watch out for, according to Adolescent Addiction (Second Edition, 2020), are:

  • Failing to control your screen time
  • Checking for time on your phone but getting distracted by notifications
  • Using your phone when bored or alone
  • Eye and neck strain
  • Losing track of time while on the phone
  • Concealing how much time you spend on the phone
  • Hearing phantom vibrations
  • Fear of being without your phone (nomophobia)
  • Constantly checking for messages when there aren’t any (textaphrenia)
  • If you’re spending more than two hours per day (outside of work-related matters) on your phone
  • Feeling stressed when your battery is going down


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While it can be difficult to understand whether you have some of these symptoms or not, being self-aware that these symptoms can be tell-tale signs of phone addiction is important. Knowing that there may be a possibility of developing addictive behaviour towards your phone can help you take action at the right time. A healthy way of doing this is by cutting down the time spent on screens, specifically, your phone.


Cutting Down Your Screen Time

Finding out that you have the signs of phone addiction isn’t pleasant, but you can do something about it. Feeling anxious about being away from your phone means you’re on the right path to fixing your phone addiction. According to a study presented at the Radiological Society of North America conference, phone addiction can have a lot of consequences, including:

  • Increased anxiousness or stress
  • Feeling depressed or lonely
  • Lessening your ability to concentrate or work
  • Creativity block
  • Insecurity and isolation from others
  • Sleep disturbances (including insomnia)
  • Having constant ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO)
  • Exposure to dangerous situations (like texting while driving or walking)


Taking control of your actions and time is essential when looking to prevent or come back from phone addiction. Regaining control for your phone use can be challenging but can be done with hard work and dedication. Here’s how to track and control your phone time:


Track Your Screen Time

Knowing how much time you’re actively spending on your phone can help you do something about it. Today, most smartphones allow you to see how much time you’re spending on your phone and what you’re doing in that time.

Start setting screen limits that ensure you’re not using your phone all the time. You can also set limits to specific apps to monitor and control your usage.


Create Screen-Free Zones

Since many of us have started spending more time at home, having specific areas that are entirely tech-free can be better for you and your family. Sed Jim Taylor, an expert at Psychology Today, says that modern technology has resulted in a divide between parents and children, and the kids aren’t entirely to blame for this newfound distance.


Spending time with family without any technology or screens can be a hidden benefit of trying to limit your screen time. Enjoy time with loved ones without the distraction of technology or constant notifications taking your focus away.


Whether it’s your bedroom or the dining room, make rooms entirely screen-free to reduce your time on the phone and interact with people in real life instead of behind a screen.


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Don’t Clutter Your Phone

Having a lot of apps on your phone that encourages procrastination and distraction is never good for anyone. There are many apps that you may deem ‘essential’ on your phone; your email, social media apps, and health-related apps might be some of them. But do you also tend to download six apps when only one is really required? Or do you download several apps that you don’t really need? Having too many apps that constantly notify you throughout the day leads to more distractions.


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that factors into how we feel pleasure. Many apps on your phone increase your dopamine levels, so you’re always lured back into using your phone no matter what you do.


Whether you’re checking an app for ‘daily rewards’ or likes or follows (extra points, discounts, perks on the app) or several notifications you’ve gotten while away, it might be worth asking yourself whether you really need them. Some apps don’t serve a purpose and are just meant to distract you.


Decluttering your phone is the best way to get around this, so you spend less time on your phone. You could also try cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to rewire your attitude towards your phone.


Ditch Your Smartphone

Traditional phones, or ‘dumbphones’ as they’re being called, are coming back. Since these phones don’t connect to the Internet, using a “dumbphone” basically limits how much you can do on your phone, which can be great for decreasing screen time.

A Deloitte study shows that one in ten people in the UK now use dumbphones. The increasing popularity of dumbphones is partially due to nostalgia, and for others, a way to reduce their screen time.

While phone addiction might not yet be a medical syndrome, it’s time for you to ask yourself whether the amount of time you’re spending on your phone is healthy.


Commonly Asked Questions


How Do I Know If I’m Addicted to My Phone?

If you suffer from some or all of these symptoms, it may be possible that you might have phone addiction:

  • Getting anxiety/stress without your phone
  • No control over phone use
  • Eye and neck strain
  • Hearing phantom vibrations
  • Fear of being without your phone (nomophobia)
  • Constantly checking for messages when there aren’t any (textaphrenia)
  • Feeling stressed when your battery is going down


What Happens If I’m Addicted to My Phone?

Phone addiction can have several consequences, including:

  • Increased anxiousness or stress due to phone
  • Feeling depressed or lonely
  • Lessening your ability to concentrate or work
  • Creativity block
  • Insecurity and isolation from others
  • Sleep disturbances (including insomnia)
  • Having constant ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO)
  • Exposure to dangerous situations (like texting while driving or walking)


How Much Screen Time Is Healthy?

For the average adult, spending more than two hours per day on your phone that isn’t related to work (and doesn’t include talking to someone verbally) is unhealthy, according to experts at ReidHealth.


What Can I Do To Cut Down Screen Time?

Some things you can do to decrease screen time include:

  • Monitoring and limiting screen time
  • Creating Screen-free Zones
  • Decluttering Your Phone
  • Consider using a dumbphone
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy






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