Addicted to using cell phone while driving? NJ therapist says you need help
Anyone who drives a motor vehicle in New Jersey knows using a hand-held phone while driving to talk or text or do anything else is against the law and punishable by up to a $400 fine for first-time offenders.
Many drivers however, choose to ignore the law.
Last year in the Garden State, there were 65,284 tickets issued, and so far in 2016, through the month of August, police have handed out 39,468 cell phone summonses.
“We are losing the art of being quiet with ourselves. People just don’t really know how to do that so they get focused on being connected,” said psychologist Tamara Sofair-Fisch, of West Orange.
She explained this kind of compulsive cell phone behavior is not only dangerous, it’s also a cry for help.
“Underneath all addictions are that people want to escape from feelings of anxiety or depression or any uncomfortable feeling,” she said. “Every time you feel those feelings you substitute either alcohol or drugs or porn or the phone. Those work to keep you from experiencing your emotions and they provide comfort in that they numb you from those emotions.”
She pointed out many New Jerseyans who cannot stop using the phone while they’re driving may also be in total denial.
“People have this attitude of it can never happen to me. You can hear the statistics, but you think, 'Oh, it won’t happen to me.' It’s dangerous; it’s bad.”
How do you know if you’ve got a problem?
"You know if your family members are saying stop, put that down. If you can’t stop yourself, well then it’s bordering on addiction,” she said. “When you have lost control over it and it is controlling you, then you have a serious issue.”
Sofair-Fisch also pointed out “if you’re walking around and saying I’m not beholden to these rules, then you’re not living on reality. These individuals are totally losing the fact of their reality around them, they’re totally focused on their phone.”
She said this is a matter of poor judgment, or selfishness, or both.
“They’re operating as if they’re the only person there and losing sight of everybody around them and it’s tragic,” she noted.
The good news is there is hope for cell phone addicts to turn their lives around.
Sofair-Fisch said people can overcome and change this addictive behavior by going into therapy.
Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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