Cell phones have become such powerful and versatile tools that, for many people, they feel literally indispensable.

In fact, it’s easy to feel like you’re the one who’s lost when you can’t find your phone. So, how do you know whether your attachment to your phone is just a 21st century cultural phenomenon or a genuine, life-altering addiction?

To figure out the answer, let’s take a look at what current research has to say. Also, we’ll take a closer look at the symptoms of phone overuse, the side effects, and how to break the hold your phone may have on your daily life.

Is cell phone addiction really a thing?

Pew Research Center reports that 81 percent of Americans now own smartphones — up from just 35 percent in 2011. And, over the past 5 years, Google Trends indicates that searches for “cell phone addiction” have likewise been rising.

And pathological phone use has given rise to a raft of new terminology, such as:

  • nomophobia: the fear of going without your phone
  • textaphrenia: the fear that you can’t send or receive texts
  • phantom vibrationsTrusted Source: the feeling that your phone is alerting you when it really isn’t

There’s little doubt that excessive cell phone use is a problem for lots of people.

But there’s some debate among medical and mental health professionals about whether problematic cell phone use is truly an addiction or the result of an impulse control issue.

Many medical experts are reluctant to assign the word “addiction” to anything other than habitual substance misuse.

However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the handbook used in the medical community to diagnose mental disorders) does recognize one behavioral addiction: compulsive gambling.