Monday, August 26, 2013

Barcelona teens addiction to mobile phones

[Barcelona psychologist, Vega González Bueso]
[This article of mine was first published in Catalonia Today, 20 November 2008. I decided to republish it here because of a similar case with a friend of my 12 year-old son.]

A recent survey in England found that teenagers’ favourite activity during school lunchtimes was not playing a sport or even talking with friends, but sending text messages on their mobile phones.
Young people in Catalonia are no less vulnerable to the attraction of mobile phones.
Vega González Bueso,a psychologist and assistant medical director at Barcelona's Atenció i Investigació en Socioaddiccions (AIS), (or Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Social Addictions) says that AIS is dealing with a growing number of cases related to this behavioural compulsion.
The first patient with a mobile phone addiction was treated at AIS in 2003,” she says. 

“The trouble is that mobile addiction is socially accepted and this makes it more difficult to detect the problem.  
Generally, requests for treatment come from a relative who has, for example seen a very high telephone bill, and they then force the person in question into starting treatment.”
While high phone bills are a problem, mobile phone addiction can take a psychological toll, leading to isolation from the user’s social environment. 
Ironically, a piece of technology that is supposed to make us more closely connected can instead create mistrust or feelings of separation between an addict and friends. 
In one case described by Vega González, 18-year-old Susanna began to use her phone more and more, to the point where she became unable to suppress an impulse to send messages and talk at all hours.
She began failing all her subjects in school and her mobile bill climbed to €800 a month.
 “Susanna sold some family jewellery to earn money to top-up the credit on her mobile,” Vega González said.

”She even communicated with people she did not know and ended up losing lots of friends because she was relating less and less to her environment.”

Vega González said the high bills tipped off her family,prompting them to seek help.

After a year of therapy, Susanna is better, but “went through terrible moments when at the beginning she was forbidden to use the cell phone,” she said.

Treatment at AIS includes the family or partner, whose involvement is seen as an important in solving the problem.

One aim is to train the affected person to develop greater social skills so they can relate to people more without the use of a mobile phone.

Infatuation with mobiles is found more among males than females, according to AIS, but those at risk of addiction tend to share similar problems of low self-esteem, communication difficulties, insecurity and emotional instability.

Vega González says an inability to control phone use despite knowing the negative consequences of the behaviour is usually a clear sign of a significant problem.

”If they stop doing important activities such as study or work because of this addictive behaviour or have continuous thoughts about their phone when he or she does not have access to it, this is the time to seek treatment,” she said.

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