Compulsive Phone Checking?

Good Morning from California.

California Sunrise - Tuesday, 8/30

It’s 9:30am on a gorgeous, albeit scorching hot, morning in Rancho Mirage, California and I’m leaving a group lecture on the family dynamics of addiction at a world-renowned addiction treatment facility. As if it’s been magnetically cued I find my right hand patting the rear pocket of my jeans in search of an iPhone.

It’s not there.

After looking around to make sure no one watched me patting my own rear I am awe struck at the fact that, for no reason at all and without thinking about it, I compulsively reached for my cell phone.

As many of you know I just returned from a week long medical student program at The Betty Ford Center where I was taught about addiction from lectures by world-famous experts and through immersion into their patient treatment program. The center, with great reason, does not allow cell phones on campus and on Monday morning I suddenly found myself connection-less for the first time in years. I remembered an article I had read on CNN not long ago that discussed the addictive nature of smartphone checking.

So, there I am in the middle of a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center finding myself addicted to my phone. Or, as the article and this research paper suggest, addicted to checking – a repetitive behavior eerily similar to the training method I used to teach Wrigley to give me a high five.

High Five Wrigley

Behavior. TREAT! Behavior. TREAT! Behavior. TREAT! Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. TREAT! Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. TREAT! Behavior. TREAT! Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. Behavior. TREAT!

An email essentially becomes a dog treat. Still with me?

It’s not hard to see how this could distracting enough to affect your real-life interactions and productivity.

“Dad said I can’t wear foil antennas and stick my fork in a socket while standing in that puddle of water. Can I pleeeeeeeease?”
“Sure honey, eat your lunch first.”

So, how do we stop?

Cell PhoneNot unlike AA and other 12-Step programs the article suggests that the first step to stopping this behavior is recognizing that you’re doing it. Honestly, even after reading that article (before I was forced phone-less last week) I didn’t realize how often I was checking my phone in the course of a day. I think being aware of this has helped some, because it now seems I’m not mindlessly looking at it ad nauseum for no conscious reason. Now, I just check my phone somewhere in the vicinity of 40 times a day and think about checking it, but stop myself, an additional 35.

Baby steps, right?

Anyone else finding themselves checking their phone for no reason other than pure compulsive behavior? 

Image: Ambro /

Quote from hilarious Oatmeal Comic.

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7 Comments + Add Comment

  • I don’t check my phone very often (as friends who try to text me will attest), but I check the comments and the stats on my blog way too frequently. Definitely an addiction there.

  • I am horrible about this! If I don’t have my phone with me, I’m fine. If it’s there, I check it. For no reason at all. Repeatedly. Ugh!

  • I just recently bought my smartphone about three months ago. I’ve noticed that I check it ALOT more now that I can check email, twitter, blogs, news and weather all throughout the day. For the most part I find this to be an advantage, but I can see how it could get out of hand. I should probably start making an effort to leave my phone alone during certain times throughout the day. Thanks for sharing!

  • I compulsively check my phone for emails way too often! It’s not that I reply right away either, but I just love receiving emails! And it’s odd because my family and I JUST got smart phones in May. Before that, we all had basic phones. When we were required to sign up for the unlimited data plan, we were all expressing how little we’re going to use it! WRONG! We’re all so addicted to it now. I think I’m going to miss my phone the most when I move the Caribbean! *sad face*

  • I am DEFINITELY addicted to checking my phone! I check so many times just to see if maybe I have a notification that I didn’t hear.. a new e-mail, text, Facebook message, something. I’ve cut back a lot now just because of my job, I’m trying not to check my phone too much at work, but I still find myself constantly checking it on the weekends and in the evenings. I’ve had a smartphone for years now and it makes me wonder, what do I have going on now that I feel is so important that it cannot wait?! If something was that important, it would be a phone call that I wouldn’t have to check for. And yet, I still check it constantly.

  • That’s me! I definitely compulsively check my phone when I’m not home (since at home I’ve got my laptop right there, haha). I’m trying to cut down on it though!

    How was your week at the center? Did you come away with a better understanding of addiction?

  • Guilty. Soo guilty. I want to hear more about your time at the center.

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About The Author

I'm an ObGyn. I started this blog as a medical student (some would call that doctor school) and now I'm working as an Ob/Gyn, which is seriously the coolest job ever. I'm a twin mom and recently added a baby brudder to the mix. My life story through November 2010 can be viewed here. The events in the many years following can be summed up as wedding bells, books, exams, babies, and doctoring. I started this blog in hopes of landing a role in a Lifetime movie so I could quit medicine and move to Hollywood, but that hasn't if you wouldn't take medical advice from Angelina Jolie, you shouldn't take it from me. I may not even be a real person. In fact, I'm probably a spambot. Or possibly a 15 yo boy blogging from a dingy basement. If you're really interested you can read more about me here. If you have any questions or want to guest post contact me.

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