A scientific debate is currently taking place about the new DSM-V classification regarding the diagnostic entity of pathological gambling [1,2] or compulsive internet usage [3,4] as addictive behaviours.

With regard to technological addictions [5,6], the mobile phone has many attributes and characteristics that make it very attractive and foment its use, particularly in adolescence. In particular, the possession and use of the mobile phone by teenagers favours personal autonomy [7]; provides identity and prestige in comparison with their peers [8]; offers major technological innovations (tools for which adolescents demonstrate a special inclination and skill); is a source of fun and entertainment; and favours the establishment and maintenance of interpersonal relationships [9,10] by taking advantage of technological resources, such as ‘missed calls’[11], that have a clear social and affective function. Teenagers are fascinated by the mobile phone.

Nevertheless, the uncontrolled, inappropriate or excessive use of the mobile phone can give rise to social, behavioural and affective problems. One of the latest studies carried out on the pattern of mobile phone use in adolescents [12] revealed the existence of significant relationships between some of the main parameters of mobile use and problems derived from its abuse, as well as the presence of indicators of mobile phone dependence, according to the DSM-IV-TR criteria. Some of the most characteristic symptoms of dependence were the following: (a) excessive use, manifested in both a high economic cost and in numerous calls and messages; (b) problems with parents associated with excessive use; (c) interference with other school or personal activities; (d) a gradual increase in mobile phone use to obtain the same level of satisfaction, as well as the need to substitute operative devices with the new models that appear on the market; and (e) the need to use the mobile phone frequently, as well as emotional alterations when phone use is impeded.

Diagnostic tools of mobile phone dependence have been developed [13,14]. The Test of Mobile Phone Dependence [13] was developed using the DSM-IV-TR criteria on dependence and a sample of 1944 adolescents. It contains three factors: I, ‘Abstinence’; II, ‘Lack of control and problems derived from the use’; and III, ‘Tolerance and interference with other activities’. The results show that there is a direct and statistically significant relationship between test scores and the main parameters of dependence: lack of impulse control, use of the mobile phone to avoid unpleasant mood states, problems derived from the use of the mobile phone, abuse of the mobile phone (as shown by the number of daily calls, messages, ‘missed’ calls or ‘beeps’) and the amount of time invested daily in both calls and messages.

So, even though it is necessary to carry out further work in order to analyse the associations of the scale with mental health conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety) and other indicators of psychosocial dysfunctions, the construct of ‘mobile phone addiction’ is really plausible and merits inclusion in DSM-V as a kind of technological addiction.

Declaration of interest