The rising popularity of smartphones has made communication and information easier to come by for online users everywhere. However, with its aggressive growth comes an underlying issue that will lead to various problems, particularly in mental health.
Keep reading below to learn more about the effects of smartphones on mental health. Discover why it’s dangerous and get tips on preventing these issues from happening.
The Effects of Smartphones on Mental Health
According to Discover Magazine, scientists have yet to agree on proving smartphone addiction. However, they’re certain that the overuse of smartphones is detrimental to a person’s mental health.
Below are some of its effects.
If online users spend too much time checking their phones for updates or interacting with different apps, they spend less time engaging with the world outside their devices. Once addicted, they miss out on social interactions with friends and family, reducing their chances of creating meaningful experiences.
Unfortunately, many experts believe loneliness can also lead to various physical issues, triggering habits like stress-eating and smoking, leading to health complications like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Blue light is a type of light that the human eye can’t filter because it has higher energy than other colors. Because it can’t be filtered out, more of it passes through the retina and interferes with natural melanin production. Smartphones emit a lot of blue light. Unfortunately, many of us tend to go to bed with them, making it a habit to engage with various apps before sleeping.
Melatonin is a crucial hormone that helps regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycle. Once disrupted, a person can experience difficulty falling or staying asleep, leading to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can increase mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression. It can also affect a person’s brain functions throughout the day.
Smartphone addiction can trigger anxiety in many ways. For instance, today’s aggressive social media landscape has seemingly blurred the lines between real life and fantasy. People inadvertently compare themselves to others who often showcase their “perfect lives” on social media, leading to insecurity, stress, and increased anxiety.
Meanwhile, some people addicted to smartphones develop anxiety that manifests in physical symptoms like shaking, sweating, and palpitations. These occur when they’re separated from their phones for too long, don’t receive a message reply quickly, or miss out on a social media post or notification.
According to Medical News Today, research has found an association between social media use and depression. While studies continue on this issue, experts believe excessive use of such platforms contributes significantly.
Prolonged exposure to social media, in particular, increases a person’s negative thinking. If people constantly compare themselves to others online, they tend to feel lonely or worthless once they discover they don’t share the same experiences, leading to increased levels of depression. Online bullying is also prominent on social media, triggering suicidal thoughts, particularly in younger online users.
Like any other form of addiction, withdrawal symptoms may also occur for people addicted to smartphones. If someone addicted becomes separated for extended periods, they may experience boredom, loneliness, frustration, irritability, and fatigue, triggering more symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, many misinterpret the situation, thinking smartphones relax or help them unwind when such feelings occur.
The harmful blue light emitted by smartphones can pose significant risks to our eyes. Prolonged exposure to this high-energy, short-wavelength light may lead to digital eye strain, causing symptoms like dryness, irritation, and fatigue. Additionally, blue light exposure has been linked to disrupted sleep patterns, as it suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep.
Over time, this can result in serious eye health issues, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). To protect our eyes, it’s essential to limit screen time, use blue light filters or apps, and adopt the 20-20-20 rule, taking breaks every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Addressing Smartphone Addiction
Here are a few tips to help prevent some of the adverse effects caused by smartphones.
Take a smartphone breather
The most common approach that people take is to take time off their devices. Try picking a day off your week without looking at your smartphone. Make it a habit until you go weeks or months without frequently checking your devices and only using them to send important messages.
Another way to keep your smartphone away is to avoid charging it in the bedroom or sleeping beside it. Doing this will prevent you from using it before sleeping. That way, you can sleep without any disruptions.
Alternatively, put your smartphone in a drawer or cabinet when you come home from work. Doing this will help reduce your screen time and increase your time with your family.
Use a mental health app
Mental health apps are becoming more prominent in the age of smartphone addiction. These mobile apps are reportedly designed to help users improve their emotional well-being, helping them become more mindful and address common mental health issues and symptoms.
Most quality mental health apps provide users with access to therapists and professional care. Some offer meditation practices that they can do at home to alleviate stress and improve sleep. Meanwhile, people can also get online mental health help from various websites.
Change your phone’s settings
If you’re not using your smartphone for work, you can make various settings changes to help decrease your use at home. An article published in The New York Times suggests you make your smartphone less appealing. You can turn off your notifications so you’re not tempted to check them constantly.
You can also turn on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode to avoid any messages, especially while resting. You can even turn your screen to grayscale or set longer passcodes to discourage use.
Protect Your Mental Health
Smartphone addiction is a real threat to online users everywhere, causing various mental health issues. While there are many ways to prevent these problems from happening, the first step is to recognize that they’re a real threat so that people can take all the steps needed to combat them.