Navigating Phone Induced Anxiety

Dec 2 , 2023
By Kidist Yidnekachew

I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. It is my go to source for information. I enjoy interacting with text messages and browsing through the social media platform, especially when I am not busy.

But, it becomes overpowering after a while. Waiting for a reply, and the brief responses to heartfelt messages can be triggering to induce anxiety.

One of the days last week, I had the entire house to myself for a few hours while my kids were asleep. Sitting on the couch, I decided to take a break and relax going through my social media feed. The contents began emerging.

Footages from conflicts all over the world compounded with suffering of children, homes reduced to rubble while perpetrators care less about the collateral damage were overwhelming. Nothing in this world is certain and it could disappear at any moment.

In the midst of feeling grateful for the calm and quiet of my life, my phone suddenly slid behind the couch. I could not get it without moving the furniture and disturbing the kids. Therefore, I resorted to contemplating other possible activities.

Stepping outside on the balcony, the sound of children playing football while chattering seemed hectic and I decided to go back inside; tried sitting, but quickly felt the need to get up. I thought about cleaning the house, but was not in the mood —I felt restless. As the US Author Nelson DeMille wrote in one of his books, "The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you're finished." That was how I felt.

It got me thinking, what was life like before a mobile phone?

It has not been a full three decades since the service was availed in our country but the pandemic of living inside the phone has plagued the city. People using public transport are usually browsing the internet, while drivers are occasionally glancing at their phones to check for location accuracy or play music.

On the other hand, the subtle but pervasive effects of smartphones on mental health are easily forgotten in this age of connectivity, where the gadgets have become an extension of our hands.

Continual barrage of alerts and updates that demand attention is one of the main causes of anxiety.

The constant flashing and buzzing make one pressed for time and instil fear of missing out, which keeps them hooked to their gadgets. Consequently, the natural stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the system.

Chronic stress causes anxiety, irritability and trouble falling asleep and is made worse by smartphones' tendency to become addictive. Fresh content and endorsing acts such as likes and comments can give continuous dopamine hits, which cause compulsive checking habits and feed a cycle of dependency.

Meanwhile, the sleep-wake cycle interference induced by cellphones can cause fatigue and irritability during the day. The hormone that controls sleep, melatonin, is produced less frequently when exposed to blue light from screens.

I realise that setting up healthy boundaries and routines is crucial to reducing the anxiety-inducing effects of cellphone use. It is wise to develop a habit of using technology in moderation.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 02,2023 [ VOL 24 , NO 1231]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (

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