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Problematic Smartphone Use Influences the Relationship Between Experiential Avoidance and Anxiety
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking  (IF4.157),  Pub Date : 2022-01-12, DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2021.0062
Julia Y. Gorday, Joseph R. Bardeen

Experiential avoidance (EA), an unwillingness to stay in contact with unwanted inner experiences (e.g., emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations), has been implicated in the development and maintenance of anxiety. Individuals with high levels of EA are more likely to employ maladaptive coping strategies (i.e., avoidance behaviors), which exacerbates emotional distress and anxious arousal. As smartphone ownership has become increasingly common in recent years, problematic smartphone use (PSU) has been suggested to serve as a “safety behavior” in situations in which individuals believe that they might experience emotional discomfort. That is, individuals experiencing emotional distress and/or anxious arousal may overengage in the use of technology to relieve emotional distress. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine PSU as a moderator of the relationship between EA and anxiety. Adult participants (N = 294) recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk), an online labor market, completed an online battery of self-reported measures. Results indicated that the relationship between EA and anxiety became significantly stronger as PSU increased, thereby suggesting that PSU may exacerbate the effect of EA on anxiety. These findings are a first step toward the development of risk profiles that incorporate EA and PSU. Such risk profiles may be beneficial for early identification and intervention for individuals at high risk for the development of anxiety.