Now that our society has had smartphones for more than a decade, we're beginning to see that they affect people more than anyone ever realized. While they do make our lives easier in some ways, they can also be a cause of mental anguish. Researchers have recently taken a closer look at the relationships we have with our smartphones and they have uncovered some startling findings.

Nomophobia is a New and Legitimate Disorder

What is Nomophobia? This is a relatively new phobia having to do with the inability to use one's smartphone. Some people develop an irrational fear that they will either lose their phone or will be unable to use it, either because they cannot get a signal or the battery has run down. The condition is already a concern for mental health professionals.

New research has shown a link between this type of fear or anxiety and overall emotional instability. The problem is becoming so widespread that there are already treatment facilities in many major cities. These clinics specialize in helping people suffering from phone addiction.

Smartphones Contribute to Antisocial Behavior

How many times have you walked into a crowded restaurant and seen the majority of people face down, smiling at their screens? Studies are finding that smartphone use is causing people to become more isolated, alienating even the most outgoing people in social situations. Additionally, increased smartphone use has dulled our person-to-person communication skills, making it that much harder to make a real connection.

This break from connecting with the real world and obsessing over the online community has also been shown to lead to depression. In one study that examined teen smartphone use, researchers discovered that depression was more prevalent in teens who spent the majority of their time online versus those who regularly bonded with friends in-person.

Our Moods are Affected by Smartphone Use

Similarly, feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are heightened through frequent smartphone use. One reason for this trend in mental health is that people are getting less sleep because they're spending more time on their smartphones. Contributing to the problem is the growing fascination with temporary picture sharing, which started with Snapchat, but has now been adopted by Facebook and Instagram. The idea of rating or "liking" a picture brings the high school popularity contest to the digital world, where feelings of rejection can be infinitely multiplied.

These factors may explain why people are more mood temperamental after prolonged smartphone use. They are also less focused on specific tasks, which makes them more prone to error and accidents. Researchers believe mood is the motivating factor for people who often check their phones for new notifications; they're hoping to see something to give them a boost. Unfortunately, it most often has the opposite effect, leaving individuals feeling lonely and depressed.

As the use of mobile devices continues to increase, we're seeing stronger links between smartphone use and mental health problems. As we isolate ourselves from our peers and replace them with online connections, we're contributing to the very problems we're trying to solve. While mobile devices seem to be here to stay, society is going to have to learn to bring proper balance to their lives. Smartphones should be a tool, not a hindrance.