Your mobile phone can tell you a lot about the weather, your weekend plans, the latest news. Therapists say it can also dictate how you feel.
Specifically, certain phone habits can indicate anxiety.
When we’re anxious, our body goes into fight or flight, and a lot of times, because we’ve been so attached to our phones… that’s one of the first places that fight-or-flight response occurs, said Tasha Bailey, a psychotherapist. in London and author of Real Talk: Lessons From Therapy on Healing & Self-Love.
Here are some phone habits that could be a sign that something deeper is going on.
Doomscrolling (and general overscrolling).
Most people are quite familiar with the term Doomscrolling, which is a phrase for continuously scrolling and clicking to learn more and more about disturbing news or topics of concern. And, not surprisingly, this could be a sign that you’re feeling anxious. (Furthermore, it may even be reason to your anxiety.)
In [doomscrolling]they were trying to find some security, they were trying to find answers, but doing all that court scrolling just makes our anxiety worse, said Kerry Howard, a Texas-based licensed clinical social worker and anxiety coach who provides services to clients around the world .
When you’re scrolling and scrolling and scrolling, anxiety-inducing thoughts can flood your mind and make it hard to think about anything else.
Beyond scrolling, Howard said that excessive scrolling of seemingly good content, such as lighthearted posts or funny reels, can also be a sign of anxiety.
Many people use this as a distraction method and you shift your attention to your phone, which allows you to avoid what’s going on in your life, whether it’s a stressful work situation or a fight with a friend.
Asking disturbing questions.
Similar to court scrolling, doom searching, if you will, is another way your anxiety can manifest when using your cell phone.
When we’re anxious, we’re often hypervigilant and overthink things, Bailey said. It may appear [in our] Google searches; “We might have millions of tabs open for all the things we were worried about,” Bailey added.
Your searches can tell you a lot about what you care about, whether you’re looking for symptoms of illness or looking up when you feel healed after a big breakup?
Our Google searches can show us how anxious we are and the intrusive thoughts we may be having, Bailey said. We were looking for some kind of validation, or some answers or guidance.
Using the phone as a way to avoid certain situations.
I’ve had some clients tell me that especially if they’re socially anxious, they’ll actually pretend to answer a text or phone call as a way to avoid real-life social interactions, Howard said.
So let’s say you’re at a coffee shop and an ex-coworker or high school acquaintance starts approaching you, have you ever acted like you were on the phone to avoid social interaction? This is an example of using your phone as a distraction or avoidance strategy to deal with real-life stressors, she said.
Additionally, if you’re stressed about a work project, using your phone as a procrastination tool can also be a red flag.
Why? You avoid the stress and discomfort of the project you have to face, Howard noted.
The inability to put down the phone.
Not being able to tear yourself away from your phone like when you’re exercising, going to bed, or in a work meeting can be a sign of anxiety, according to Emma Mahoney, a therapist at A Better Life Therapy in Philadelphia and creator of mental health content on TikTok. .
What’s more, it may even indicate codependency. I think a lot of people are addicted when it comes to their phone, which is an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship, Mahoney said.
If our phone was a person, we’d be attached to it all day, Bailey added. And when people are anxious, they can become even more attached to their phones.
You may notice that your phone’s battery dies quickly when you’re in this headspace, Bailey added. Think about it: if you have your phone on you all the time and quickly respond to any and all emails, calls and texts, your phone’s battery won’t last much of the day.
If you’re dealing with anxiety, Howard added, you might find yourself constantly checking your phone at inappropriate times, like when you’re having lunch with the family or when you need to sleep.
You just feel that obsessive urge to check your phone notifications, Howard said.
Responding to your notifications as soon as possible.
In the same area of constantly checking your phone, Howard said some people tend to immediately turn to notifications as a way to avoid anxiety.
But the problem with that is you always end up on a call and you really struggle to have good boundaries with yourself around phone use, she said.
Those loose boundaries on the phone can lead to more anxiety, the expectation to respond to texts immediately or always answer a work call can overwhelm you.
Avoiding phone calls.
Jokes are often made at the expense of younger generations who do not like phone calls. More and more young people are relying on texting, messaging apps and voice memos to stay in touch with friends.
But avoiding phone calls can also be a sign of anxiety, according to Howard.
Have we somehow lost the art of social skills, and so when we feel less confident about our ability to engage with others, we tend to hide behind our phone or don’t want to make a call that is intimidating or answer call, Howard said.
Panic when your phone doesn’t work.
Mahoney said it’s important to note how you feel when you don’t have WiFi or your phone dies. Feeling nervous or panicky can be red flags, she noted.
(This excludes people who use their phone for safety, Mahoney said, such as if you’re relying on maps to get you home late at night.)
I know some people need to have their phone on them for safety, but when it’s just a withdrawal from not being able to text your friends or see what’s going on on Instagram, I feel like that’s something really important to consider. Mahoney. added.
You should be able to be alone for a while without texting or calling. The constant need to be in contact with others can be problematic.
If you find yourself nervously attached to your phone, there’s no shame in it.
Try not to be ashamed if you feel that you have an anxious attachment to your phone.
It’s not crazy … they’re essentially designed to keep you attached to them, Mahoney said. And I feel like … I can’t even think of anything that I spend more time with than my phone.
Be kind to yourself if your phone feels unhealthy or a way for your anxiety to manifest, she said.
While you have grace for yourself, you need to have an honest conversation about how can I create some distance and connect with myself? Mahoney said.
You can try a mindfulness trick to limit your phone usage.
If you think your phone is fueling your anxiety, you can try creating a physical barrier between you and your phone. In fact, it’s a hack Mahoni uses herself: Simply put a hair tie around your phone.
It’s very difficult to text and search things when there’s a rubber band around your phone, Mahoney said. So it kind of creates that awareness.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t even realize they’re just picking up their phone and opening an app, or just opening their phone automatically because they’re so used to it,” Mahoney said, adding that it creates an alertness in our brains and reminds us that we everything go to our phone.
Or you can establish clear boundaries on the phone.
Limits aren’t just for other people, they can be for your phone too.
Bailey suggested setting time limits on certain apps or creating strict boundaries around using your phone after work. This could include not having work emails on your phone or muting notifications after a certain amount of time.
Mahoney added that you can even turn off your phone for an hour each day to give yourself some space.
I’ll tell people I’m going to turn off my phone, so if you need me, I’ll be able to answer in an hour, Mahoney said, and that sets expectations for myself and other people.
This could look like putting your phone upstairs after dinner or leaving it in your bag when you’re at the office. There is no right way to set phone limits and it will vary by person.
And it’s important to take care of yourself and your anxiety in general.
Self-care can help combat feelings of anxiety and is important not to neglect. Sometimes this just gets put on the back burner because you’ve been so busy and you’ve had a lot going on, but it’s so important to rest, eat healthy, get adequate exercise, Howard said.
It’s all so important when it comes to managing anxiety and really feeling your best, Howard added.
You can also engage in mindfulness strategies like meditation, journaling, listening to calming music and deep breathing to help regulate your mind and body, she said.
What’s more, you can ask for additional support. You can find a mental health professional through databases such as Psychology Today and Inclusive Therapists who are trained to support people with anxiety.
Because you certainly don’t have to go through this alone, Howard said.
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