Is text messaging a mental illness?

LOS ANGELES Nikki Brown has a problem -- she cannot keep her hands off her phone.

Click in the Eyewitness News story window above to watch Subha Ravindhran's report, including an interview with a texting addict.

"I text morning, noon and night, and it adds up to about 3,000 to 5,000 a month. It is bad," said Brown.

Her habit is so bad that some psychiatrists are diagnosing obsessive texting as a mental illness. According to an article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, if you text too much during the day you probably have a problem.

"I don't think that is me yet, but I see it in my younger brother. He might be getting there," said Dan Friedland.

"People can get really addicted to it because you can get away with it when you are not supposed to be. It is a lot more incognito than talking on the phone, and you can be in a meeting or in school," said Brooke Smith.

Experts say that there are four distinct symptoms to diagnosing texting as a mental illness:

  • Excessive use (neglect day to day activities)
  • Withdrawal ( feeling depressed when not accessible)
  • Tolerance (over texting)
  • Negative repercussion ( social isolation)

Glendy Aceves says that her friend Nikki fits the bill.

"I think if she had to go a day without her phone - even half a day or two hours - she would flip out. She would not know what to do and go into withdrawal," said Aceves.

But with texting now becoming the more popular way "to communicate without communicating," some say whether it is a mental illness or not, it will take a lot more than a study to get texters to put down their phones.


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