If you’re spending more time glued to your phone browsing social media platforms than you do relaxing or taking time with family and friends, you could be on the slippery slope to an addiction. A 2018 Ofcom report revealed that the average Briton checks their phone for updates once every 12 minutes – a practice that can greatly impact on our health and mental well-being. Here’s how to spot red flags that you may be addicted to social media, so that you can take back control.

You crave social media when you step away from it
If you’re starting to feel twitchy because you can’t check your phone for updates, this is because of a neurotransmitter called dopamine which helps to carry messages around the cells in our bodies. Dopamine can also be related to the feeling of reward that happens when we carry out gratifying actions. Over time, if the gratifying action becomes a habit, this feeling can become an addiction. Rising levels of dopamine in our system can also reduce levels of the happy hormone serotonin, which tells us when we have had enough of an activity. A healthy, happy person should have balanced amounts of serotonin and dopamine in their system. Over-use of social media can therefore upset this balance. Try to do something else that gives you a buzz of serotonin – like eating your favourite food, having sex or watching a feel-good film.

Social media stops you from living everyday life
If you can’t go out with your friends to see a film, or to a restaurant with your family without obsessively checking your phone, something is definitely wrong. While social media may be a welcome escape from reality, don’t forget to still live life to the full so that you do not become disconnected from society and your social circle. Is your social media use getting in the way of intimacy in your relationship? Job? Or studies (if you are a student)? Try taking some apps off of your phone so that social media is not instantly accessible wherever you are, and turn off notifications. Limit your exposure to a couple of times a day using a laptop or desktop.

You become agitated when you lose phone battery or signal
If you start becoming aggressive, worried, anxious or agitated because you are running low on battery power on your phone, or have lost a 4G/5G signal and cannot get notifications, this is a sign you could be addicted to your phone and social media. Take a few moments to breathe deeply and calm yourself. Seize power in the present moment and remind yourself that you can charge your phone later. Focus on your feelings and making the most of some you-time away from distractions, and turn this moment of being present into a positive.

You check social media last thing before bed
This is not a healthy practice, and if it applies to you, it’s time to take control and do something about it. By scrolling through social media sites just before going to bed, you are putting yourself at risk of major sleep deprivation because of the blue light from your device, which puts your brain into ‘wake up’ mode. Read a book or listen to music, as this will help you to relax and drift off before sleep.