Smartphone Addiction Creates Chemical Imbalance In The Brain, Says New Study

Approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population suffers from anxiety and fatigue when separated from their smartphone, but there is a cure.

Excessive smartphone usage creates changes in the brain.
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population suffers from anxiety and fatigue when separated from their smartphone, but there is a cure.

Apparently, smartphone addiction is a real thing, and nearly half of America suffers from it. Fortunately, someone in Austria has a potential cure for it.

A new study, conducted by researchers at Korea University, indicates the brain chemistry of someone unable to unplug from their phone is different from others. Over time, smartphone addiction causes changes in the brain that ultimately lead to symptoms of anxiety, fatigue, and “phantom cell phone vibration.”

For the study, smartphone-addicted individuals as well as others without the dependence were subjected to an MRS test, which creates a profile of chemicals in someone’s brain. Part of the profile specifically measured the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate-glutamine (GLX). GABA is a substance that can slow down activity in the brain, while GLX increases brain cell excitement, as reported by the Independent.

The results found a significant difference in the GABA and GLX levels of participants addicted to smartphones and participants who were not. Higher GABA and lower GLX levels coincided with individuals with smartphone addiction.

While the study is interesting and may shed some light on the possible cause of smartphone addiction, it should be noted that it has one limitation – a small number of participants. The researchers only had 38 participants, 19 claiming a smartphone compulsion and 19 who feel they don’t need it. So science has a little way to go before knowing the exact cause of the disorder.

Smartphone addicts have the urge to check phone constantly.
People addicted to smartphones often experience anxiety and fatigue when not connected. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

As researchers seek out the source of smartphone addiction, sufferers can be treated. A report from Today explains one way is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The treatment helps someone recognize they have an addiction and the emotions associated with it. Through self-control, an individual eventually replaces prior phone activities with new, more prolific options.

If that doesn’t work, a smartphone addict can purchase a device called a Substitute Phone. Developed by Austrian designer Klemen Schillinger, the palm-sized fake phone can simulate a smartphone experience.

“The shape of the Substitute Phone replicates an average smartphone, however, its functions are reduced to the movements we make hundreds of times on a daily basis,” explained Schillinger, as cited by the Washington Times. “The stone beads which are incorporated in the body let you scroll, zoom and swipe.”

Without any digital functions, users can only go through the motions. According to the device’s inventor, these movements can help relieve the stress and anxiety related to smartphone addictions. When someone feels the urge to check their smartphone, they can pick up the Substitute Phone instead.

With technology quickly becoming an essential and vital part of our lives, smartphone addiction is probably a consequence. The constant feeling of need to check some wireless device has created a society where people feel anxious or even confused when not electronically connected. Much like a drug, technology has become a fix without an easy escape.