Mobile Devices

What is Mobile Device Addiction?

There does not exist a formal diagnosis of mobile device addiction. This does not mean, however, that we cannot attempt to determine whether such a classification is required. Mobile device addiction would most likely include identification of compulsive attachment to mobile devices to the detriment of normal functions, such as loss of sleep, in-person sociability, etc, and usage time in excess. The patient should also express a desire to reduce the amount of time invested in mobile devices, but has found it difficult to do so. It is important to develop determinate criteria that does not misdiagnose normal individuals.


The advent of mobile computing has led to widespread usage of cellphones, laptops, and tablets. With these devices, continuous connection to the internet is not only possible, but often the norm. Our attention to these devices persists throughout the day, potentially disrupting schedules and interpersonal interactions, as well as disrupting sleep patterns. Indeed, the first thing most people do both before and after sleep is check their cell phone.

Device usage begins earlier in life than ever before, with a survey in the U.K. reporting 25% of  British children between the ages of five and 16 now have a mobile phone. Child psychologist Dr. David Lewis warns that as the cell phone use replaces traditional peer-to-peer interaction, children accrue many more acquaintances, but fewer friends. He warns that as text messaging and speaking on the phone becomes favored over communicating in person, “[children] are replacing quality with quantity.”

Woman hand using a smart phone and typing a laptop at home

This continuous connection as our society evolves can be detrimental, even in amounts now considered within “normal” usage. Of course, it also opens avenues for habitual misuse, bordering on addiction. One study reported that college students spend an average of 8-10 hours on their cell phones every day.

We examined a recorded instance where habitual usage of a mobile device became problematic. In this instance, the patient was involved in the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program (SARP), and exhibited significant irritability and frustration when he was unable to make use of his Google Glass™. He exhibited a very notable, nearly involuntary movement of his right hand up to his temple, in an unconscious attempt to turn on the device. Short-term memory and thought processes were also impaired. It was not lost on the researchers that this would be the first recorded instance of problematic use regarding Google Glass™.