18 Jul Six Signs of a Compulsive Phone Checking Habit
Has your phone checking habit got out of hand? Recent research suggest we check our phones on average 58 times a day and while some of that might be with a specific purpose (work or connecting with friends), most of us recognise that a lot of those pickups are for no good reason at all. So, how does compulsive phone checking start?
How a compulsive phone checking habit starts
Right before you check your phone the dopamine levels in your brain start to rise. Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ or ‘pleasure’ brain hormone but it’s also released in anticipation of something that will make you feel good. Dopamine rising in your brain feels great. When you post on social media your dopamine starts to rise thinking about all the likes, comments and new followers you might get.
When you don’t get the likes or engagement you were hoping for, your dopamine levels drop. This feels bad, so you’re compelled to keep checking or refreshing to see if there’s been a mistake.
But if you do get the reaction you were hoping for your dopamine levels rise – which feels good.
You keep repeating the behaviour (wanting even more dopamine if it’s rising, frantically trying to build it up if it drops) and it becomes a pattern – your brain gets trained into a cycle of wanting more and more dopamine. Dopamine is associated with all addictive processes and substances, so your phone checking starts to feel compulsive and addictive.
Here are the six signs of compulsive phone checking you should keep an eye on;
#1 Getting up in the night to check your phone
You might convince yourself that your compulsive phone checking is nothing of the sort during the day, but if you’re getting up at night just to check your phone your habit has got way out of hand.
Make it harder for you to check your phone in the night by plugging it in the furthest power socket from your bed – don’t sleep with it right by your fingertips.
#2 Checking your device again when so little time has passed nothing can have realistically changed
It’s not compulsive behaviour to go back to a post to see if anyone new has engaged it. But when you’re checking every two or three seconds or so, that’s definitely a worrying sign. Try and lengthen out the time between checks – and keep an eye on time gaps that are shortening.
#3 Refreshing more than once in the hope something new will appear
We all know apps can go down, there are glitches in wifi and mobile data connections, so refreshing a post while you’re looking at it is fine. But refreshing over and over again looking for something new isn’t healthy. Limit yourself to one refresh for each check and be strict with yourself.
#4 Spending a significant time after posting merely refreshing
After you post something there are lots of other things you can do on each app – check for friends’ updates, like their content, write comments. But if all you’re doing every time you check your phone is refreshing the app – beware.
#5 Setting limits on checking which you break immediately
You might have been aware that your habit was getting out of control, so you might have decided to set some limits on the amount of time you pick up and check your phone. If you find that any limit you set is completely impossible to stick to you’re going to need to involve other people to take your phone off you for a while, or to make you accountable.
#6 Feeling out of control and angry and frustrated with yourself
If you hate your habit but you can’t seem to change it and feel out of control with escalating behaviour that’s impacting the rest of your life, get help. Talk to a professional, check out the rest of the resources on this site or just let a loved-one know you need some support and help. Don’t trivialise it, or suffer in silence.
For more about how to deal with compulsive and addictive behaviour around your smartphone, and how get a healthy balance with tech: My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open is out now