A Dive Into Dopamine: Its Role In Mobile Dependency

Whether we admit it or not, it’s a scenario many of us can relate to: You pick up your phone to quickly check something, only to find yourself still scrolling twenty minutes later. Or, you intend to focus on work, but somehow end up mindlessly checking social media instead.

How does this keep happening?

Much of the allure that keeps us glued to our mobile devices stems from the dopamine rush they provide. Intrigued by this mysterious force behind our mobile addiction? Read on to uncover its secrets.

What Is Dopamine?

Essentially, dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It can be thought of as a chemical messenger that goes between the brain and nerve cells, and it affects the way you think, feel, and act. This is because dopamine is produced in the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area – areas involved in regulating your mood, behaviour, and cognition.

As such, it plays a pivotal role in acting on areas of the brain to make us feel happy and satisfied.

This is because dopamine plays a central role in the brain’s reward system and is released in response to pleasurable experiences (such as going on your phone). This subsequently reinforces behaviours associated with rewards, which play a part in how we learn and are motivated.

Unsurprisingly, this means dopamine levels are associated with issues such as addiction, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Enter our mobile phone addiction.

How Does Dopamine Keep Us Addicted To Phones?

Countless studies have shown that dopamine is released in our brains when we use our mobile phones, making us feel happy, satisfied, and, ultimately, wanting more.

Before we know it, getting a hit of dopamine from using a mobile phone causes us to feel a need to continue enjoying and repeating this feeling over and over again. Thus, we are kept reaching for our phones to get another burst of this powerful effect.

Humans are, after all, creatures of habit. While this can be a beneficial factor of our nature, keeping our lives organised and structured, it also means that, once we’ve performed a specific behaviour a few times, especially one that triggers a release of dopamine, the pattern becomes etched in your habits and your brain begins to crave the reward.

Just like how a smoker keeps going back for another cigarette without even realising it, we find ourselves reaching back for yet another scroll through social media or flick between our apps potentially before we even know what we’re doing.

The Dark Side Of Dopamine: Mobile Phone Addiction

Unfortunately, the part dopamine has played in the way we interact with our mobile phones and other devices has led to unhealthy digital habits.

Dopamine is a major reason why we struggle to put down our phones, and this has subsequently left many of us facing serious mental and physical health issues.

Mobile phone addiction, fueled by dopamine, has caused a huge percentage of people to deal with serious mental health issues. Thanks to dopamine, we have a constant craving for our mobile phones and feel ensuing anxious whenever we are apart from our devices.

Moreover, the constant usage of mobile phones has left many of us exposed to issues such as cyberbullying, low self-esteem as a result of comparing ourselves to unrealistic expectations on social media, and social isolation resulting from an overreliance on digital devices to sustain real-life relationships.

The pervasive reliance on and excessive use of smartphones have also caused sleep disturbances due to the bright screen light and those late-night scrolling sessions, and physical health often takes a backseat as individuals prioritise social media over exercise and outdoor activities.

Of course, it’s important to recognise that mobile phone addiction is a complex phenomenon influenced by multiple factors. Nevertheless, dopamine undeniably plays a pivotal role.

Addressing our dopamine-fuelled mobile phone addiction often requires a multifaceted approach. However, one of the simplest and most effective ways of getting to grips with mobile phone addiction is by taking a digital detox, involving proactively taking time away from your screens.

Find out more about the apps redefining the digital detox here.