NOMOPHOBIA : THE FEAR OF BEING WITHOUT CELLPHONE

Nomophobia, or “NO Mobile Phone Phobia” is a psychological group of symptoms in which a person experiences fear or anxiety about not having mobile phone connectivity.

Do you have trouble putting down your smartphone or feel anxious when you know you’ll lose service for a few hours? Do thoughts of being without your phone cause distress?

If so, it’s possible you could have nomophobia, an extreme fear of not having your phone or not being able to use it.

Most of us depend on our devices for information and connection, so it’s normal to worry about losing them. Suddenly not being able to find your phone probably sparks worries about how to deal with losing photos, contacts, and other information.

But nomophobia, shortened from “no mobile phone phobia,” describes a fear of not having your phone that’s so persistent and severe it affects daily life.

Results of multiple studies suggest this phobia is becoming more widespread. According to 2019 research, almost 53 percent of British people who owned a phone in 2008 felt anxious when they didn’t have their phone, had a dead battery, or had no service.

2017 study looking at 145 first-year medical students in India found evidence to suggest 17.9 percent of the participants had mild nomophobia. For 60 percent of participants, nomophobia symptoms were moderate, and for 22.1 percent, symptoms were severe.

No scientific studies have reported on United States statistics. Some experts suggest these numbers may be higher, especially among teens.

Read on to learn more about symptoms and causes of nomophobia, how it’s diagnosed, and how to get help.

Symptoms

A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is characterized by an irrational fear of an object or situation. In this instance, the fear is of being without a phone or being out of the reach of cell phone service.

While nomophobia is not a clinical diagnosis, some of the symptoms that are commonly identified as related to this fear include:

  • The inability to turn off your phone
  • Constantly checking your phone for missed messages, emails, or calls
  • Charging your battery even when your phone is almost fully charged
  • Taking your phone with you everywhere you go, even into the bathroom
  • Repeatedly checking to make sure that you have your phone
  • Fear of being without Wifi or being able to connect to a cellular data network
  • Worrying about negative things happening and not being able to call for help
  • Stress over being disconnected from one’s online presence or identity
  • Skipping activities or planned events in order to spend time on the mobile device

In addition to emotional and cognitive symptoms, people may also experience physical symptoms as well. People might breathe faster, their heart rate may increase, they may sweat more, and may shake or tremble. They may also begin to feel weak or dizzy. In severe cases, these fear symptoms can escalate into a panic attack.

Causes 

The exact cause of nomophobia is not fully understood.

Authors of a 2016 article noted that it developed due to the instant communication and instant gratification that smartphones provide. This can develop the addictive and compulsive behavior.

Others believe that an existing anxiety disorder or phobia may lead to the development of nomophobia.

In one 2020 article, researchers proposed that possible causes or predictors included:

  • obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior related to a smartphone
  • interpersonal sensitivity, which is the ability to assess the abilities and traits from nonverbal cues in others, and may include:
    • feelings of personal inferiority
    • social discomfort
  • the number of hours of smartphone use each day
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Treatments 

Since nomophobia is not an officially recognized disorder and is relatively new, no treatments currently exist. Instead, a doctor or psychologist will likely recommend treatment options similar to treating other phobias.

The following are some possible options that a doctor may recommend if they suspect someone is living with nomophobia.

Behavioral therapies

A standard treatment approach for phobias includes a variety of potential behavioral therapies. These therapies help to address the underlying fears and beliefs surrounding the phobia.

In the case of nomophobia, the therapies could help address a person’s fear of losing their phone, not being connected, and the implications of not having access to their phone.

Some therapies for phobias include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: In this therapy, a person confronts the underlying thoughts that contribute to the phobia.
  • Desensitization, or exposure therapy: This approach involves gradually exposing a person to the thing they fear. In nomophobia, a doctor may expose a person to a lack of access to their phone.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy involves a therapist guiding a person through imagery to help them develop self-soothing techniques when confronted with not having access to a phone.

Coping

If you think you have nomophobia or feel that you are spending too much time on your phone, there are things that you can do to better manage your device use. 

  • Set boundaries. Establish rules for your personal device use. This might mean avoiding your mobile device at certain times of the day, such as during meals or at bedtime.
  • Find a balance. It can be all-to-easy to use your phone to avoid face-to-face contact with other people. Focus on getting some personal interaction with others every day.
  • Take short breaks. It can be tough to break the mobile phone habit, but starting small can make the transition easier. Start by doing small things such as leaving your phone in another room during meals or when you are engaged in another activity.
  • Find other ways to occupy your time. If you find that you are using your phone excessively out of boredom, try looking for other activities to distract you from your device. Try reading a book, going for a walk, playing a sport, or engaging in a hobby that you enjoy.

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