By Natalie Foote
Ever feel a phantom buzz when you haven’t gotten a notification in a while? Ever feel tense when you can’t be near your phone or stressed when you wake up in the morning to check your messages? This is nomophobia. The dictionary definition of nomophobia (an abbreviation of no-mobile-phone phobia) is “a term describing a growing fear in today’s world—the fear of being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact.” While many may deny this term or their dependence on technology, it is starkly present in today’s society.
According to Psychology Today, 66% of adults suffer from nomophobia. While this is not recognized as a psychiatric condition, nomophobia is associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure, shortness of breath, anxiety, nausea, trembling, dizziness, depression, discomfort, fear, and panic. An ISB student, Zakary Kennedy, points out that “You get used to your phone, then forget about all the stuff you actually need to do and aren’t as present with friends and family.”
Some argue that this condition would be better classified as an anxiety disorder or even an addiction, but the Psychiatry Advisor argues the placement of this phobia is best for the diagnostic criteria it fits. This includes an excessive and unreasonable fear or anxiety associated with an object, exposure to the feared object causes immediate anxiety, the person recognizes that their fear is out of proportion, avoidance of the feared situation, and routines and relationships are disrupted due to the phobia.
This is a severe form of phone addiction that many may not struggle from, but there is a difference between being addicted and unable to admit it, or simply not relying on your phone. BHS sophomore Serena Mlodinoff summarized this well: “I think they can both be beneficial and negative. On one hand, a teenager can seek help using their cell phone and also be able to stay in contact with their friends during a stressful time like quarantine to maintain mental health. On the other hand, people can become addicted to a cell phone like a drug, and that is obviously bad for mental health.”
There is hope, however. If you suffer from this phobia, or even if you think you are too reliant on your phone, you can take steps to prevent the issue from blowing out of proportion. Detoxing from phone usage for a day can reset your mind and help you reflect on how technology is controlling your life. Too big of a commitment? Dial back social media usage by setting limits on your phone. If the issue triggers when you receive notifications, turn those off or only leave the important ones on.
Nomophobia may be denied, discredited, or ignored, but the damage that being constantly connected to your phone has on your mental health can cause long term problems. Whether you constantly use your phone or barely at all, reflect on your phone usage and consider making changes. Connecting with your friends is important, but not so often that your mental health is being compromised.
Photo from SafeGuard. A woman uses a phone.