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Are You Depressed? Blame Your Smartphone

By Carissa Andrews  •   July 23, 2014

Smartphone usage is on the rise, with over 58% of Americans owning one. While the boon in information technology has always seemed like a blessing, to many it can develop into something more akin to a curse. Studies are beginning to show that too much screen time with your electronic devices can actually be creating symptoms of depression, if not exacerbate what may have already been there in the first place. Not to mention it can play host to a bunch of other nasty side effects like anxiety, sleep disorders, and learning impairments, to name a few.

Cells in your eyes called iPRGCs are activated when your eyes are exposed to bright lights for an extended period of time, which includes the screen light emissions from your smartphones and tablets. According to researchers, these specific light-activated cells can impact the brain regions responsible for mood and memory.

Smartphones were designed for ease of use and to make life and business easier. While some can argue they do their jobs well in this regard, they also pack on the stress. Thanks to your smartphone, you’re never out of reach – or out of touch. Those trying to contact you assume that you’ll answer, and when/if you don’t, then there must be something wrong with you.

Because of this constant state of alert, researchers at the University of Worcester have even found this type of stress can cause your brain to trick you into believing your phone has beeped or vibrated, when in fact it hadn’t. For those struggling with depression, or waiting for that elusive message from someone specific, not getting it can sink them further into despair.

People under this kind of stress can develop additions to their smartphones. According to a study conducted in China, when teens were without their phone they developed paranoia and were consistently worried that they would miss a message when their phone was turned off. Other symptoms included problems at school from constant phone use, having strong and irrational reactions to losing or forgetting a phone, or feeling uncomfortable when not using a phone.

What does this mean for the rest of us? Well, it’s pretty simple, really. As with all good things, we need to limit ourselves to a reasonable level. Kind of like the 80/20 rule when you’re eating (80% healthy and nutritious/20% just plain yummy). Not only do we need to observe some self-restraint, but we need to be teaching it to our children, too.

Does iPhone make you happy

3 tips to tone down the screen time

1. Limit screen time to the essentials

Unless you deliberately need something, are working, or decide to indulge in a little television or social networking – steer clear of your screens.

2. Limit your screen time

Period. No matter what you do with your electronic devices, put a limit on how long you’ll stay logged in. Maybe it’s a half hour, or an hour. If you’re at work, set a reminder on your to get up, leave your desk, your cellphone, and the fluorescent lights and take a quick walk outside.

3. Break the cycle

You don’t need to be constantly checking your phone for status updates, new messages, and weather changes. We promise, they’ll be there in your half-hour indulgence later. If you seem to find yourself constantly checking your phone, find a good place to put it out of reach. Leave it in your purse, or put it in another room. Do something that allows you to disconnect from the obsession that surrounds so many these days. You won’t die, and as a happy bonus, your phone’s battery won’t either.

If you just can’t stand the thought of letting go of your smartphone, but are concerned about your propensity to develop signs of depression, there may still be hope for you, too. Healthline.com recently released their “Best Apps for Depression of 2014" and they list out many different types of apps that can give you a better outlook on life. Some can even help you determine if you’re at risk for depression and what to do about it.

So whether you’re a die-hard device user, or ready to swap your screen-time for some serene-time, there are options for you that don’t require your moods to suffer. For all of you reading this, we wish you the best of health and happiness. Now go read a real, honest-to-goodness book and set your cellphone aside.


Carissa Andrews is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.


The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.