According to the ICD-10, the diagnostic manual published by the World Health Organisation and used in the UK and Europe, you have an issue with a substance and can classify for ‘harmful use’ if, over the last month or on-and-off for a twelve month period, your addictive substance:
“was responsible for (or substantially contributed to) physical or psychological harm, including impaired judgement or dysfunctional behaviour”.
When it comes to texting, what could that look like?
How could that translate to texting? For starters, notice if you get a sort spaced out, ‘high’ feeling when you text. Do you stop noticing everything else and feel ‘cocooned’ in your text world? Then ask yourself:
Do I feel an overwhelming desire to text?
Can I control myself, or do I text things before I know what I am doing and regret it later?
Do I feel good when texting, but then unhappy, moody, anxious, or panicky if someone doesn’t text back?
Do my moods rely on communication by text?
Has my text use risen a lot lately?
Am I constantly thinking about what I will text, or if the other person will text? Constantly waiting for a ping, checking my phone?
Am I aware that I am over texting someone, making a fool of myself, or saying things I’ll regret? But can’t stop?
There is as of yet no hard research about the addiction of just texting. But the studies are certainly coming in about the addiction of mobile devices.
A survey of over a thousand families in California found that one in two teens felt addicted to their mobile devices, for example.
In fact 48% of parents in the study admitted they themselves felt the ‘need’ to immediately respond to texts, and a shocking 56% admitted to checking their mobiles while driving. Taking risks is a known indicator of addiction.
And women might be more at risk than men. A Korean study of over 500 students created a ‘smartphone addiction scale’ asking questions about things like whether you bought your smartphone to the toilet with you, or had tried to stop using it so much and failed.
It found that females were more likely to be addicted, although that could be because they were also more likely to be aware of their smartphone addiction than their male counterparts.
Your brain on texts
Furthermore, there are things about our favoured modern method of communication that lend it to being addictive.
One is related to our dopamine levels. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger in the brain) connected to feelings of pleasure and reward, that then motivate us to continue an activity and seek that feeling of reward again and again.
The very speed of our favoured modern form of communication, the way we can send and receive messages in a second? And gain someone’s attention from anywhere? Might lend it to be more addictive than other activities.
Communication addiction disorder
But how can communication be addictive? When it’s something we all do? One answer predates smart phone use.