Can Being On Your Cell Phone Cause Depression?


We use our phones for everything nowadays: to socialize with friends, to watch videos, to find recipes, and even to distract ourselves from reality. Reaching for our phones may seem like a harmless action, but could this simple reflex actually be a sign of a real mental health issue?

How Cell Phone Use Can Affect Your Brain

It’s very common to check our cell phone as a way to disconnect from the outside world. But over time, doing this often can lead to insufficient emotional exercise. When we don’t get enough emotional exercise, we are more vulnerable to life’s everyday stressors. 

One of those stressors is self esteem. On social media, getting a “like” or comment on a photo of ourselves gives us a sense of approval. When we get that sense of approval, we crave it and chase after it more. People who chase after that approval typically become addicted to social media. And even if they don’t become dependent on their phone, they will still base their self worth on how much engagement they got on Instagram or TikTok.

And while we’re posting these photos of ourselves, we’re looking at photos of friends and social media influencers on our feed. When we see photos of people having fun and enjoying themselves, we tend to compare ourselves to them or compare our lives to theirs. We might even feel like we’re missing out. This cycle of comparison will lead us to believe that our life is less worth living than someone else’s, which is absolutely not the truth.

Finally, heavy cell phone use can contribute to a false sense of connection with individuals on social media. On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, it is very easy to message someone and quickly form a bond. While these bonds may seem strong, they do not compare to human interaction. Forming these relationships can create a false sense of connection with others. 

Can Using Your Phone Lead to Depression?

Even though cell phone use alone cannot directly cause depression, it can contribute to depression symptoms. Similarly, having depression can lead to heavy phone use. Technology use and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety typically go hand-in-hand. So while using a cell phone doesn’t necessarily lead to depression, heavy smartphone use is usually a good indicator of some sort of mental health issue or condition. 

Symptoms of Depression Disorders

Do you think that your/your child’s phone use could contribute to depression? Here are some signs that someone may display if they are struggling with this mental health condition:

  • Having a hopeless outlook on life
  • Angry outbursts over small things
  • Anxiety and increased stress
  • Persistent sadness or emptiness
  • Unexplained physical problems
  • Losing interest in old hobbies
  • Self-hate or inappropriate guilt 
  • Increased fatigue & sleep issues
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Uncontrollable emotions
  • Having suicidal thoughts

Depression is a serious mental health condition, but it is manageable and treatable. All it takes to get started is commitment, vulnerability, and a willingness to commit to self care. 

Decreasing Depression & Screen Time

Even though losing your cell phone less won’t completely get rid of depression, it can help alleviate some symptoms. Here are some ways to work on decreasing your screen time:

  1. Put the phone away an hour before bed
  2. Limit yourself to two hours of phone time per day
  3. Physically separate yourself from your phone
  4. Remove all apps you truly don’t need
  5. Prohibit cell phones at dinner and out to eat
  6. Make time for face-to-face interaction

These habits will take time to form, but they will help to reconnect from the world and disconnect from the spiraling thoughts that come with the internet and social media. Try one step at a time and build on from there until you can spend one full day without scrolling on your phone. 

Depression Disorder Treatment Methods

If you think that cell phone use is contributing to depressive thoughts or feelings for you or your child, see a doctor or mental health specialist as soon as possible. They will discuss all options with you and will help you determine the best next steps. Treatment methods for depression disorders typically include a combination of diet changes, medications, and talk therapy. 

At Elium Health, we offer comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with depression and other mental health conditions. Our team of treatment specialists is always here to answer any of your questions and get you on the track toward managing your depression. Give us a call today at (215) 714-6027 or visit to get started. 


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