Answering work emails out of hours increases your risk of stress, experts warn

Most of us check our smartphones 80 times a day — about once every 12 minutes, according to a study by technology insurance provider Asurion.

While some will be able to continue at this rate without developing a problem, others will become addicted to their handset.

Stanford University psychiatrist Dr Anna Lembke has outlined some of the warnings signs of smartphone addiction.

When identifying addiction, clinicians look at three different components: control, compulsion, and continued use despite consequences.

Dr Lembke emphasised that addiction is a spectrum and severity is based on a combination of each of the ‘three C’s’.

‘There are absolutely mild, moderate and extreme forms,’ she said. 

1. Using the phone longer than you planned to

In the case of smartphone addiction, Dr Lembke says, the element of control comes into play when a person puts a limit to the amount of time they’ll be on their phone and consistently exceeds it.

Examples of this include pressing snooze on your alarm in the morning because you’ve got one more social network to check or running late for a meeting because you got caught up checking emails.

2. Using it in inappropriate settings, like while driving or going to the bathroom

‘We’ve all seen people using phones while driving or in other situations that are just obviously unreasonable,’ she said.

‘Before there were physical barriers to where you used technology, but now these mobile devices are 24/7 in my bed, in my car, always just right there,’ she said.

Dr Lembke suggests that portability is a main reason that smartphones are more addictive than other technology.

Just because you can bring your phone with you everywhere doesn’t mean that you should.

3. Giving up other activities because you’re on your phone

Ditching the gym because you have to catch up with your Twitter timeline?

Dr Lembke says when phone use begins to take over time allotted for other activities, it’s considered a red flag for addiction.

‘Our “work hard play hard” culture can make people feel as if they can’t possibly be unplugged because they’ll miss something important, and that’s how they justify excessive use,’ she said.

4. Feeling anxious when not on your phone

A key component of the compulsion factor of addiction is feeling uncomfortable or anxious when not on one’s phone.

‘Some people get so they’re worried they’re missing something that they’ll pull out the phone while in a meeting or even while having an emotional one-on-one conversation,’ Dr Lembke said.

5. Negatively impacting your relationships

Ever tried to have a conversation with someone who won’t look up from their phone and make eye contact with you?

Excessive phone usage can negatively impact personal relationships because it can make others feel as if they aren’t as important as whatever is going on in their device.

‘An example would be if your partner asks you to put down the phone and spend more time with them or with the kids but you ignore that request,’ Dr Lembke said.

6. You use your phone as a security blanket in uncomfortable situations

When in an awkward or tense social situation, it can often be enticing to turn to your phone as an escape from the discomfort.

However, this kind of behaviour is a common indicator that you may be a little too attached.