Mobile phone usage behind the wheel is linked to anxiety disorder and people who engage in this risky practice may be suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder rather than addiction, say University of Arkansas researchers.
The findings have significant policy implications because most legislation prohibiting mobile phone usage while driving - which generally has failed - has relied on research that links dangerous and excessive usage to addictive traits.
"Despite evidence that addiction might drive some excessive and dangerous mobile phone usage, that model explains only part of the phenomenon," said Moez Limayem, professor and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
"Our study shows that another potential driver of such behaviours may relate more closely to obsessive-compulsive disorders than addictions.
"This is important because behavioural interventions to treat OCD and addictions differ fundamentally, and the possibility that mobile phone usage is a compulsion rather than an addiction may suggest more effective legislative interventions and prevention tactics," he stated.
Limayem and a doctoral student, Zach Steelman, came to the conclusion after they collected data from 451 men and women of various age groups and locations through an online survey website.
"Evidence of compulsive behaviour brings to light the notion that the underlying motivation to use a mobile phone is not pleasure, as predicted by addictions studies, but rather a response to heightened stress and anxiety," Limayem added.