There’s No Place like Phone

Noel Bell Channel 5 newsThe sixth annual Deloitte report There’s No Place like Phone, which analyses the mobile usage habits of more than 4,000 UK consumers, was released today.

The report was covered widely across the national media. Channel 5 News covered the story on their main news and spoke to consumers, journalists and myself about the issue. See below for the embedded link to the news item (I spoke briefly at 1:03).

The UK public has never been more ‘addicted’ to smartphones, according to the survey. The report uses June 2016 as a foundation to claim that four out of five UK adults (81%) have a smartphone. This percentage rises to 90% when the 18-24 year olds cohort is reviewed.

The key findings of the report are:

  • Nearly 50% of the age group 18-24 check their device in the middle of the night.
  • The adoption rate of 4G usage has more than doubled in the past 12 months (up from from 25% to 54%).
  • 31% of those smartphone users surveyed did not make any traditional voice calls in a given week. (This contrasts with 25% in 2015, and just 4% in 2012).
  • The majority of those who participated have downloaded 20 or fewer apps.

The word ‘addiction’ is difficult for many clinicians in the medical world. Strictly speaking it is a misnomer to call even heavy smartphone usage an addiction. Psychiatrists recognise Gambling Disorder as the only behavioural (non-substance related) addiction. Their bible is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association (APA) diagnostic tool, currently in its 5th iteration, and does not include smartphone usage as a problem. Internet Gaming Disorder is, though, listed in section 3 of DSM-5 as “conditions for further study”. However, in common with other behavioural problems like sex addiction, counsellors and therapists have lots of anecdotal evidence that alludes to a growing problem of preoccupation and obsession.

If you think you have a behavioural problem with your smartphone take a look at whether you identify with some of the points to consider in the need for digital detox and how to set boundaries around your engagement with technology.

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Mobile apps and managing your depression

apps for depressionThere are now a plethora of mobile apps for every condition known to man and you may be wondering whether they offer any benefit to diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management of your depression.

If you are worried about whether you have depression it is advisable to first pay a visit to your GP, who can advise you about your treatment options.  If you have already been diagnosed with depression you may be under medication and or in some form of talking therapy, or waiting for your counselling to start.  Or it may be that you are already in therapy and are wondering whether you can use mobile apps to support your therapeutic process.

The key with mobile apps is to make sure you use an app from a trusted source. You need to be aware of the risks associated with the privacy, security and confidentiality of your very personal data, even from trusted sources. In the UK there is a quality assurance process through the NHS Health Apps Library which seeks to offer safe and trusted apps for the management of your health.  There are currently 26 apps that the NHS has recommended (some of which are free) for mental health.   Government plans involve producing NHS ‘Kitemarks’ for trusted smartphone apps as part of an ongoing wider efficiency drive to reduce paper based patient records and to increase more electronic records to help improve health outcomes. Indeed, Mr George Freeman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Life Sciences, recently launched a £650,000 prize fund to help in the innovation and development of mental health software and apps.

Apps can be useful, in the same way as self-help books, in potentially offering you insight into your state of being and helping to teach you techniques that could  be positively life changing. Your therapist can support you if apps are used in conjunction with your therapy and can be useful in setting out daily thought and behaviour patterns as well as setting to-do lists. However, just like popular self-help books, apps may only provide a short term boost to your state of mind and emotional balance if used as a substitute for one to one therapy. Consider for a moment what might occur when your levels of personal motivation decline after an initial burst of enthusiasm.  Depression is a subtle foe whereby you can feel hopeless all of a sudden.

The constancy of therapy offered by one to one and face to face therapy, as well as the advantages of building a trusting relationship with your therapist, can potentially prove to be more robust and sustaining in the longer term. When you make the effort to visit your therapist for weekly sessions, in spite of sometimes not wanting to go, you secure additional benefits than just the talking time in your session. Making the commitment of seeing your therapist on a regular basis offers you the potential to gain more perspective and to reflect more meaningfully on your life as you benefit from dialogue and interaction with your therapist.

See my article on apps for managing your depression. To see me for therapy call now on 07852 407140

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