Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?

It's hard to imagine life without smartphones

For many people, it’s the first thing they see after waking and the last thing they check before falling asleep. 

Smartphone addiction is in the same category as other technology addictions such as computers and gaming, which are all part of a larger family of behavioral addictions. Anything that can produce pleasure in your brain has the potential of becoming addictive.

Addiction is Real

Research has identified the following six signs of any type of substance or behavioral addiction. Do these describe your interaction with your smartphone? 

Read the definitions and then take the quiz. Your responses will help you determine if you need to have a time out from your smartphone. 

Salience A behavior becomes salient when it is deeply integrated into your daily routine.

Euphoria/Mood Modification What does the beep, buzz, whistle or stylized ringtone have in store for you? The feeling of anticipation or excitement that precedes and/or follows the use of your smartphone is a mood modification resulting in euphoria.

Tolerance Like in drug and alcohol abuse, tolerance addresses
the need for an ever-increasing “dose” of the behavior to achieve the desired “high.”

Withdrawal The feelings of irritability, stress, anxiousness, desperation and even panic that often occur when you are separated from your smartphone are good examples of withdrawal symptoms.

Conflict Do your spouse or children complain that you are always on your phone? Do you allow texts, calls and e-mails to spoil your vacations and personal time? Are your work activities interrupted by playing games and other countless forms of entertainment offered
via your smartphone?

Relapse When we acknowledge that our smartphone use may be undermining our well-being, we attempt to stop. But, then we slip
back. We relapse.

Take the Quiz

Note how many of the following statements you agree with, then calculate your score.

  • The first thing I reach for after waking in the morning is my smartphone.
  • I sleep with my smartphone next to me in bed.
  • I often use my smartphone when I am bored.
  • I have pretended to take calls to avoid awkward social situations.
  • I find myself spending more and more time on my smartphone.
  • I spend more time than I should on my smartphone. 
  • I become agitated or irritable when my smartphone is out of sight.
  • I have gone into a panic when I thought I lost my smartphone. 
  • I have argued with my spouse, friends or family about my smartphone use.
  • I use my smartphone while driving my car. 
  • I have tried to curb my smartphone use, but the effort didn’t last very long.
  • I need to reduce my smartphone use, but I am afraid I can’t do it. 

Tally Time To calculate your score, simply add up the
number of statements you “agree” with and check your results.

# of Agrees

8 +  You need a reservation at the Betty Ford Clinic for habitual smartphone users.

You have crossed the tipping point and are moving quickly to full-blown cellphone addiction.

You have not yet reached your tipping point but need to carefully assess how your cellphone is impacting your life.

You are either living in a monastery or have the patience and self-restraint of a monk. Or, technology simply scares you.

Since smartphones in some form are likely here to stay, we need to reach some kind of digital détente and examine how best to relate with the 21st century equivalent to the security blanket. It is important to set aside time to unplug from digital devices and plug into what really matters—friends, family and being in the moment. Try it. You might like it.

Dr. James Roberts, The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, is a nationally recognized expert on consumer behavior and author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone? and Shiny Objects. This article is adapted from Roberts’ site at