Is your smartphone ruining your marriage?
SMARTPHONE addiction is driving couples to divorce and forcing worn-out workers into rehab, as switched-on Australians spend nearly five hours a day surfing the internet.
And digital dalliances are wrecking relationships, as partners watch online pornography, cheat on dating websites and flirt on social media.
Workaholics are now checking in to addiction clinics for a "digital detox" to kick the habit of constantly checking office email.
Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone warned that constant connectivity was making people mentally ill and physically sick.
"There is an expectation you are available 24/7 and that can impact on family and relationships,'' he told The Courier Mail.
"We're multi-tasking more than ever before but there's got to be a limit to how much we stretch that rubber band before it snaps.
"Mental health issues like stress and anxiety are more commonplace - we need to try to set some boundaries.''
Drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation clinic The Buttery Private, inland from Byron Bay, is offering treatment for internet addiction.
Clinical director Jenny McGee said some clients were checking in to the clinic for a month to recover from work stress caused by online work overload.
"They have burnout caused by checking emails and taking phone calls compulsively,'' she said.
Ms McGee said addictions to online pornography and shopping were causing rifts in relationships.
She said social media, gaming and pornography could "activate the pleasure neural pathways of the brain'' in the same way as drugs or gambling.
"People can get a sense of validation and self-worth from being liked for their Instagram picture or posts on Facebook,'' she said.
"In the short term you can derive pleasure and reward from getting a 'like' or lots of 'friends'.
"But people compare themselves and their lives to what other people are wearing, where they work, what holidays they go on - so quite often they'll have a high degree of depression, anxiety, loneliness and low self-worth.''
Relationships Australia called on couples to pay less attention to their smartphone, and more to their partner.
"If it dings and you've got to answer, the other person feels they're not as important as the phone,'' Relationships Australia Queensland manager and long-time couples counsellor Val Holden said.
"If they don't feel heard or listened to, they can look elsewhere for that attention.''
Ms Holden said social media made it easy for couples to reconnect with old flames, creating "jealousy issues" with current partners.
Sydney marriage counsellor Clinton Power said cyber-cheating was driving more couples apart.
"There's never been a time in history when you can lie in bed next to your partner and cheat on them,'' he said.
"Sometimes people cross boundaries on social media and private messaging, and there might be an aspect of flirting or sexting.
"The other partner can react as if it was a physical infidelity.''
Mr Power said couples were also getting into fights over text messages, which were easy to misinterpret without the benefit of eye contact, voice or body language.
He said partners and children could feel neglected as a result of obsessively checking emails, text messages and social media.
"People are spending massive amounts of time on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and they get so obsessed with it they're not even aware how often they're checking their devices,'' he said.
"The reward centre of the brain can light up with a buzz of the phone - it's almost like a chimpanzee pressing a button to get a pellet of food.''
BAN phones from the bedroom
NEVER check emails before sleep
TURN OFF notifications on apps so they don't interrupt
SCHEDULE time to look at email and tell your colleagues you will only respond during certain hours
LEAVE the phone at home on date nights
MEALTIMES must be phone-free
SET social media boundaries - is it OK to "friend" an old flame?
DON'T discuss delicate issues by text message