Overuse of smartphones causing 'exhaustion and anxiety'

Overuse of smartphones causing 'exhaustion and anxiety'

With all the activities and information that can be found by picking up a smartphone, it's no wonder that people spend so much time on them.

"Kids use it to cope with stress but, may be overusing it, too,” says Dr. Richard Idell, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at UT Health Northeast.

Early studies show that people who are constantly on their smartphones are at risk for temporary brain damage.

"We see changes in neurotransmitters, which are the chemical signals in the brain in people that are addicted to smartphones versus people that are not,” says Dr. Idell.  

These smartphone addicts were found to have an imbalance of GABA levels, an anxiety regulatory chemical.

According to Dr. Idell, this shift in the brain can leave people feeling tired, anxious, and less able to focus.

"Not too far off from what substances of abuse are known to do,” says Dr. Idell. “Provide temporary relief but, in the long term, can be destructive."

Dr. Idell says the effects of smartphone overuse can be reversed by shutting off the apps and letting your brain relax. UT Health Northeast is currently researching the effectiveness of a mindful meditation app called Headspace.

"It's an app essentially that teaches focused breathing and essentially sitting quietly,” says Dr. Idell. “Instead of reacting to thoughts and feelings, it teaches you to be able to observe them."

Turning off the phone completely is an option as well.

“I would recommend turning off the device a good hour before you fall asleep,” says Connie Greer, the Access Librarian at Tyler Public Library. “A physical book in your hand that you're reading will allow you to wind down more."

The key is to limit the time spent starring at a screen.

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