R u in Trouble?
By Oksana Tashakova
Friday, June 22, 2012

Texting addiction is for real and can lead to it becoming a dangerous obsession. How to deal with it? Get yourself some “unplugged time”

“Anything that you can become obsessed with, and you do so much that you don’t do the things you need to do with family, friends, school, job — that can be an addiction,” psychologist Dale Archer told CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller. “And texting absolutely can qualify.”

Teenagers text an average of 100 messages a day, reports CBS News and texting addiction can cause problems with eating, isolation and sleep deprivation. A 2010 CNN article quotes a Nielson report that said teenagers average 3,200 texts a month; 80 per cent of kids (in the US) then owned cell phones and texting rates increased by 600 per cent from 2007 to 2010.

A Pew Research Center study found that texting is a teenager’s preferred form of communication. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Pew reports that 75 per cent of all teens text and only 35 per cent have face-to-face conversations out of school.

Neuroscientist Michael Seyffert told CNN that texting activates the same brain regions that are stimulated when a heroin addict indulges. The instant gratification of texting and receiving an immediate reply activates the dopamine reward system in our brains and it’s easy to become addicted to this 
rush of the feel-good neurotransmitter. Trying to do without it can then create anxiety and depression. Seyffert added that one in five teens skip sleeping to text and that some teens even text while asleep.

It’s not just teens who are addicted to texting. KETV reports that adults can become addicts too. The station reported on one young couple, Matt and Amber Morrissey: Matt deals with about 400 texts a day and his wife averages about 150.

The UK prime minister David Cameron is said to be addicted to texting, reports The Guardian, even indulging in it during the royal wedding. Thirty-seven per cent of British smartphone users admit to being highly addicted. Social scientist Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together told The Guardian, “We use digital technology to be efficient in our intimacies and it leaves us diminished.”

Educational psychologist Jane Healy thinks this is truly detrimental to our children. She told the Salt Lake Tribune that these superficial conversations prevent our children from having deep thoughts and deep conversations.

Texting addiction is so virulent, Dr Victor Harms told KETV, because the Internet and social media are endless. They are continually pulling you in and away from other activities and relationships in your life.

And even though texting and driving are illegal, that addictive pull makes avoiding texting nearly impossible for some. A pair of studies in 2011 took measure of this danger. MSN HealthDay News interviewed Jennifer Whitehill of the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

The first study took a 
look at different texting positions to gauge whether 
there was a safer way to text while driving. Teen drivers drifted out of the proper driving lane at a rate of four to six times higher while texting, no matter what position the phone was in. They were also twice more likely to nearly hit other motorists and pedestrians.

The second study took stock of how addicted to their cell phones undergraduates were and how this correlated with car accidents. Highly addicted students were emotionally attached to their cell phones, stayed in a state of anticipation regarding calls and messages, and weren’t able to function normally because of their addiction. They couldn’t stop thinking about their phones even when they were off. The researchers found 
that addicted youths had 
13 car crashes more per 100 students.

But it’s not just teens driving and texting. In 2010, The New York Times reported on a Pew Research Center poll that found adults were more likely than teens to text while driving. Forty-seven per cent of adults are guilty of this while a 2009 poll found that just 34 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds admit to texting and driving.

In addition, the 2010 poll found that 75 per cent of adults, compared to 52 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds admit to talking on their cell phones while driving. Forty-four per cent of adults and 40 per cent of the teens admit to using their cell phones “in a dangerous way” while driving and 17 per cent of adults admit to bumping into someone or something because of cell phone distractions. Studies suggest, The New York Times reports, that drivers on their cell phones are four times more likely to cause a car accident than people that don’t use cell phones while driving.

Dr Harms recommends that people take a look at their texting behaviour. Are you stressed when you can’t text? Does texting dominate your thoughts and time? Do you text instead of interacting with others personally? Have you tried to schedule “unplugged time”?

Teenager Caitlin Steir agreed to give it a try for three days reported KETV, and the Morrisseys gave it a week. Steir found she was able to focus on her schoolwork, calm down and enjoy face-to-face conversations. Watching others texting during social interactions helped her to realise how rude her former behaviour was.

Amber Morrissey struggled to give it up. She actually encountered anxiety and chest pain her first day and while avoiding Facebook wasn’t so bad, she couldn’t wait for the week to be over so that she could text again.

Matt Morrissey enjoyed the interactions he had with others by calling them or meeting in person.

Harms says that taking breaks like this can bring you clarity and focus and help you to develop deeper relationships with those that are really important to you. He recommends everyone take a weeklong break so that they can revisit and realise the better quality of their interactions. He also advises scheduling daily “unplugged time” such as at dinnertime and other important bonding times.



Oksana is a life coach based in Dubai; she’s an expert in stress management, addictions and phobias, relationships, communication skills and emotional pain management.

Visit her: or email her:

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