Do Smart Phones Make Us Anxious?

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Anxiety is a common mental health problem with many possible causes.  For some people anxiety presents by itself as a single problem, whereas for others it can be connected to other problems such as trauma, depression, insomnia or other difficulties.

The number of people identifying as anxious and being diagnosed with anxiety has increased dramatically in recent years, leading many people to seek out anxiety therapists, Newcastle-based or elsewhere, and many question why this increase has occurred.

One factor often considered is our increased use of smart phones, computers and tablets.  While technology has allowed us to connect with others in a meaningful way, could it also cause problems with anxiety? 

Here are some areas to consider when it comes to whether your smart phone or device might be contributing to your anxiety.

Use of Social Media

Social media has made a huge impact on our lives, both positively and negatively. Many people blame social media for the rise in depression as well as many other problems.

On one hand, social media allows us to connect and communicate with people that we might not usually meet, and on the other it can leave us feeling inferior or not good enough when we start comparing our lives with others. 

Often we see selected and filtered images posted on Facebook, Instagram or other channels that make our lives look, by comparison, inferior.  Though we consciously know on a logical level that these images are filtered or selected, our subconscious doesn’t recognise this as much and sees it as reality.

Further to this, many people often find that taking a break from social media can increase their happiness and reduces feelings of stress and anxiety.

Always Being Contactable

In our attempt to maintain constant connection with others, constant messaging has helped us quickly contact other people and hold short conversations, though it can also detach us from the present moment. 

This detachment can lead to frustration from others if we are regularly checking our phones or messaging when in social situations.  Similarly, checking emails outside of work, or looking at Facebook while in meetings can be distractions that increase our stress levels and pull us out of what we want to be doing.

Turning off your phone while engaging with other people or tasks can help build better relationships and help you focus, and therefore experience, whatever you are doing better and with more enjoyment.

Fear of Missing Out

Each time our device pings a notification, we experience a small shot of dopamine which gives us a feeling of reward and an urge to check our phones. 

This dopamine hit can also occur from playing online games, receiving likes on social media, and other activities that carry a sense of reward.  Dopamine is also involved in responding to cravings, such as eating, gambling, addictions, and the release of tension (including psychological tension) when under stress

This release of tension and sense of relief that we get from having our phone around can lead to anxiety or stress if we are not able to check it, or forget to bring it with us. 

Quite often, we take so much care to take our devices with us and checking our phones that we don’t learn that the world doesn’t end if we do miss something, and instead we develop a cycle of anxiety about being without our phones, and missing out.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss your situation to see whether one of our psychologists, counsellors or anxiety therapists in Newcastle can help you deal with the anxiety you might be experiencing, whether face to face or online via Skype, Zoom, Facetime or WhatsApp video, contact us using the box below or call us on 07966 645 198.

Dr Stuart Sadler (Chartered Psychologist)

Best wishes,

Dr Stuart Sadler

Lead Clinical Psychologist

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