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June 10th, 2009
12:11 PM ET

I'm addicted – and it's starting to hurt!

Danielle at home, on her blackberryBy Danielle Dellorto
CNN Medical Producer

They say the first step in breaking any addiction is admitting you have a problem. For years I’ve brushed off my husband’s “intervention” attempts. But lately I’ve begun to experience the physical side effects of my addiction (more on that later) and it’s forced me to think about how often I get my “fix.’”

Turns out, my husband was right all along.
My name is Danielle and I’m addicted to my Blackberry.

It’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed; it even sleeps next to me on the nightstand. I set my alarm 20 minutes early so I can read and respond to e-mails before I get in the shower each morning. I’ve pulled over while driving to answer an e-mail and, yes, my whole day feels out of whack if I’ve forgotten my trusty device at home.

I know I’m not alone. Look around at the mall, at a restaurant, at a baseball game and you’ll see most adults with their devices out.

It's not always work related. As technology advances, our phones have become personal computers – we’re tweeting (follow me: @daniellecnn),updating our Facebook status, looking up movie times, and refreshing our favorite Web sites to see what’s happening while we’re out and about.

Wireless devices aren’t the Antichrist of course, but too much of any good thing can take a toll both mentally and physically.

It may sound silly to say out loud, but my thumb really hurts! My left thumb aches more than the right. Sometimes I feel a shooting pain at the base; other times it just throbs. These are classic symptoms of tendinitis and arthritis, and doctors say they’re a side effect of my addiction.

The overuse of motion from typing for hours primarily with your thumb causes a lot of undo stress and inflammation. The thumb has one less joint than the rest of the fingers so that may explain why it’s more sensitive to injury than our other three-jointed digits. Experts say the easy cure for mild pain caused by overuse is simple – don’t use it as much! “I usually find that if a patient was to just reduce the workload or reduce the repetitive nature of this condition, their symptoms will resolve,” said hand surgeon Dr. Keith Raskin of New York University Medical Center.

Being a pain in the thumb is one thing, but what about the toll wireless devices may be taking on our social lives?

I use to think of myself as a master juggler. Pretty proud I could balance my role as the ultimate wife and employee flawlessly around-the-clock via my Blackberry! But then my one day my husband started to literally thank me for leaving my Blackberry in the room during our vacation. A day of my full, undistracted attention was a treat for him.

What a reality check. Guess I’m not so great at “juggling” as I thought. But I am getting better. I no longer jump to check my device every time it buzzes at night and I don’t bring it to the dinner table anymore either (baby steps!). I did ask him why he never flat out told me how much my antics bothered him. He said he had told me several times. Apparently, I was typing away at the time and only half-listening. Yikes! Sorry about that, honey.

So now I want to hear your story! Is your thumb achy too? What works to relieve your pain? Is being connected to your wireless device 24/7 taking a toll on your social life? What’s your advice?


soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Abby Clausing

    I had trouble breathing as I read this, at the thought of not checking the blackberry everytime it buzzes. I too was asked to leave it in the kitchen so that my friend and I could have a conversation. I know it's a problem...I just don't know if I'm strong enough to leave it behind.

    June 10, 2009 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. marianyc

    Great admission Danielle!

    I also was addicted to my berry, between 2006 and 2007, until in my case, my eyes began to lose their ability to adjust from the tiny blackberry screen to the standard vision. Things would be fuzzy for a few minutes. Then is when I realized it was time to slow down. Like you, I began to take baby steps, and now I'm lucky enough to be in front of the monitor more often than my blackberry.

    So, you're very brave to start taking baby steps. Sooner or later your addiction will pass though. Mine did ease up .

    Lately though, there is a new addiction that now has me actively involved with my berry again, when not near my computer, and that is Twittering.

    So, I don't know what to tell you.

    There is always Celebrex.

    June 10, 2009 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. fred

    good article. i am not addicted but I see a lot of this from chuckles!! oooooooooooooh

    June 11, 2009 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Brad Lipton

    Thanks for making me aware of yet another addiction.. Great article!

    June 11, 2009 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Barbara meyers

    Wow, Danielle you described me to a tee! And my children warned me...but they have forbidden me to Facebook them!!! LOL

    June 16, 2009 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Yellow

    I don't have a blackberry; at least not yet, but at one point I was addicted to my phone and the capabilities it had. I was constantly checking emails, text messages, and just surfing the web, and finally one day after reading an alarmingly long email from my friend I just couldn't respond. Now this had nothing to do with what she wrote I was just feed up with it. My eyes hurt from staring to long and my thumbs were starting to cramp; it was just ridiculous. I started thinking about how life was before my phone; strange but true, and I think about it often, and I missed it. I missed having to wait till I was home to check messages and emails; I missed not being to search the web endlessly. Sadly I actually liked those days better. It’s been about 4 months without my high tech-phone and I don’t miss it at all. I enjoy having something to just make quick calls with and not being tempted to check my facebook every five minutes. Every so often ill get that long text from friends but I’ve given up on the long replies and either call them or just make it short. My thumb and eyes no longer ache at the sight of the phone. I know that with the way our phone are today it’s so hard to just step away but I found that I was better off without the immediate up date. I would advise anyone who is looking for a way out of their texting habits is to just take it slow, and if all else fails just turn off any extra added items on your phone; that’s what I had to do, and I’m so happy I did.

    June 16, 2009 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kathy Butler

    I applaud you, Danielle, for admitting to this addiction and giving your husband his due. We need to pay more attention to the people in front of us and perhaps set aside a specific time for emailing others.

    I especially cringe when I see mothers & fathers pushing their children in strollers, or holding their hands, as they walk down the street & mom or dad is on a cell phone or a mobile email device.

    These little people Need our attention.......they learn from us how to relate to people......don't be surprised when those children completely ignore their parents [more than kids can do]. Maybe we need another Harry Chapin song......

    June 18, 2009 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. I don't want anyone to know who I am

    My husband has a serious addiction to his blackberry and a popular online computer game. I get a nod and sometimes a "hey" when he returns home from work but that's all. He goes straight to the computer to play his game and download things onto his blackberry. On a work day he will spend 4-6 hours a night doing this. On a day off he spends 14-16hrs.

    I've asked him to take 1 hr a day to spend with the baby without the electronics...he refuses. He is "too busy". The few times I've convinced him to eat dinner with me at the table the blackberry was an uninvited and unwelcomed guest.

    I feel rejected, hurt, angry, and alone. And, because he doesn't seem to think that his addictions are destroying our marrage, I plan to file for a divorce.

    For those of you who suffer from this addiction I urge you to seek help before you destroy your relationships.

    June 23, 2009 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suzanne

      Good luck to you; so sorry for your pain! I hope your husband gets the help he needs, especially for your baby's sake. So sad.

      November 4, 2010 at 14:54 | Report abuse |
  9. Carl

    just recently ,last week they passed a law in Hawaii that if your caught talking, or texting, or even looking down with a cell phone in your hand while driving a car, truck,(any motor vehicle)you get a $69.00 ticket...i think its a great law...cell phone drivers are dangerous, if they dont concentrate on driving alone i had a few close calls because they were talking on their cell phone while driving, i shouted out a few choice words at them....i ask my passengers not to talk to me while im driving my Car, because i want to concentrate on driving and not be disturbed ,because its a big responsibility, you have peoples lives on your hands in your car, and in other cars...

    June 29, 2009 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tonya

    Thank you for writing this article. My husband is addicted to his Blackberry, too, and it just makes me feel better to hear that there is a possible solution for this.

    I am at wits end trying to help him to understand that this is not a healthy dedication to his work and that I am worried about him – mentally, physically, and emotionally. More than that, I am worried about us. He cannot focus on something else for 2 seconds without checking the darn thing – and this I know for a fact, as I was trying to get his opinion on a Keynote presentation transition I had put in, and I had to play it for him twice, and both times he missed it because he looked down at his Crackberry.

    The length of the transition I wanted him to focus on? 2 seconds.

    Sigh. I will just keep trying.

    October 22, 2009 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Diane

    HI Danielle, I just did an intervention on myself. I went cold turkey turning off my Blackberry while driving. I put on 2000 minutes a month and most of it is while I'm driving. I've had too many close calls on the road.

    I keep thinking about Oprah who says first God gives you a whisper, then a shove, then a brick upside your head. My brick was on its way. I don't want to be a statistic or worse cause someone else to get hurt.

    It is harder than quitting smoking was for me. I am experiencing loss, denial, bargaining, depression, anger, panic, etc. I have to take deep breaths while driving to stay calm while my brain wants to pick up the phone and connect with other people. I was reading emails behind the wheel, checking bank accounts, plus drinking coffee, checking my makeup, and answering my pager.

    I admitted to my co-workers I have a problem and committed to stopping using the phone – even handsfree. I didn't realize it would be so hard.

    Its been 10 days now and I hope it gets easier.
    Diane

    December 28, 2009 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Shevonne

    Yes me too God has been revealing to me that I am addicted to my blackberry which is idolatry. I can lose track of time just fiddling around on the phone not doing much of anything really. So i just turned it off and put it back in its box. Deciding to answer emails on the computer and turning it on once a day for 5 minutes to see if I have any missed called. It is like sometimes you dont even notice what your doing until your up past 8am puffy eyed and tired still on your blackberry. So I am going to ask forgivness and pray to Jesus to help me to overcome this addiction. God Bless!

    August 2, 2010 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Shevonne

    PS: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 email me at shevonne_miller@hotmail.com if you life!

    August 2, 2010 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. g mbonu

    Am so addicted to my phone, i prefer doing my browsing on my phone to my pc, i use my phone everywhere my mum is always complaining and i always tell her that its no big deal. The day i realized how big of a deal it was, was the day my phone was forcibly siezed. I almost died, i was restless and i pleaded badly for my phone but they refused, when i eventually got it boy was i relived

    March 5, 2011 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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    August 3, 2016 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.