You may purchase things you don’t need and can’t afford just to experience the excitement of placing the winning bid. Compulsive web surfing, watching videos, playing games, searching Google, or checking news feeds can lead to lower productivity at work or school and isolate you for hours at a time.

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While heavy phone use can often be symptomatic of other underlying problems—such as stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness—it can also exacerbate these problems.

If you use your smartphone as a “security blanket” to relieve feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or awkwardness in social situations, for example, you’ll succeed only in cutting yourself off further from the people around you.

By learning about the signs and symptoms of smartphone and Internet addiction and the ways to break free of the habit, you can better balance your life, online and off.

Smartphone addiction, sometimes colloquially known as “nomophobia” (fear of being without a mobile phone), is often fueled by an Internet overuse problem or Internet addiction disorder.

After all, it’s rarely the phone or tablet itself that creates the compulsion, but rather the games, apps, and online worlds it connects us to.

Smartphone addiction can encompass a variety of impulse-control problems, including: Virtual relationships.

While the Internet can be a great place to meet new people, reconnect with old friends, or even start romantic relationships, online relationships are not a healthy substitute for real life interactions.

Online friends tend to exist in a bubble, not subject to the same demands or stresses as messy real-world relationships.

The heavier the phone user, the greater the anxiety experienced. Using a smartphone for work often means work bleeds into your home and personal life.

You feel the pressure to always be on, never out of touch from work.

Since few real-life relationships can compete with these neat, virtual relationships, you may find yourself spending more and more time with online friends, retreating from your real world family and friends.