Nomophobia: Is It a Myth or a Real Problem of the Modern World?
Nomophobia, or fear of being without a mobile phone, is one of the most modern phobias recognized by the medical community. And while nomophobia, like dependence on a mobile phone, has not yet received official numbers and disease codes, more and more specialists admit that these disorders actually exist. As a result, ways of helping those who are affected by these problems are developed and implemented. In this article, we will talk about what nomophobia and dependence on a mobile phone are, what characterizes and causes them. And most importantly, can one get rid of them?
Nomophobia and Dependence on the Phone: Is It the Same Thing?
The mobile phone has become an indispensable attribute of a modern man. However, this accessory has become so firmly entrenched in the lives of some of us that its unexpected absence (forgot, lost) make some people panic.
Nomophobia (from “no-mobile-phone phobia”) – fear (phobia) to remain without a mobile phone or fear of being away from it.
Some people call the dependence on the phone nomophobia, but in fact, the term means only the fear of being left without it. Not always the dependence and the fear of being left without a phone are connected. At the same time, very often they are combined. The fear of being without a gadget, as a rule, is a consequence of certain dependence.
In many cases, the dependence on the gadget and the fear of its absence are really related. Though, this is not an obligatory condition. In particular, not all people having signs of dependence have phobic states when their phone is absent. And vice versa, not always the fear of being left without a phone speaks of dependence. To make this statement clearer, let’s look at how nomophobia and dependence on a mobile phone manifest themselves.
What Is Nomophobia?
Of course, in the case of nomophobia, it’s not just a mourning: “Oh, I forgot my phone today”. The person subjected to it cannot get rid of the desire to find their gadget (if it is lost) or to be near it (if, for example, it is left at home). All thoughts revolve around the device and the fact that it is somewhere not near. As a result, a person feels irritability, inability to concentrate, severe discomfort, sadness, and loss. The same is true if the phone is physically in its owner’s hands but there is no signal or no Wi-Fi. Thus, sometimes not the absence of the device but the inability to use it makes a person panic.
Of course, if you are used to the phone, then if you do not have it, you may have the signs listed above. But if they are not expressed too strongly, this will not make you a nomophobe. A phobia is an irrational reaction to certain phenomena/events. So, nomophobia is not just an annoyance that you can’t spend time in social networks or play your favorite game. When fear of being without a device turns into a real disorder, the mentioned above manifestations are very clearly expressed. And most importantly, they have classical signs of phobia. These are panic fear, sweating, heart palpitations, chills, confusion of thoughts or consciousness, etc.
How Does Nomophobia Manifest Itself?
Such a person will not rest until the precious device is within reach. Also, a phobia is a state where the very thought that there is no phone around causes a real panic. In this case, as in the case of most other phobias, psychiatrists distinguish several degrees of nomophobia: from weak to strong. And, of course, the universal recommendation is also topical: if you suspect a mild degree, do not wait until it progresses to a strong one – it’s best to contact a specialist immediately.
Not always people experience such conditions only because they spend with the phone 24 hours a day and are really dependent on it. Other situations are possible. For example, a person is afraid that they may get sick and won’t be able to call an ambulance since they don’t have a phone at hand. Or a person keeps too personal, secret information on their phone and is afraid that while the gadget will be without supervision, this information will fall into the wrong hands. If such fears become too intrusive, they can grow into a phobia. However, it should be noted that the listed variants (and others are the same) are more likely to be an exception to the rule. When it comes to nomophobia, it is often connected with the irrational fear that resulted from the dependence on the gadget.
Signs of Dependence on a Mobile Phone
One of the main signs of dependence on a mobile phone can be formulated as follows: the device accompanies you literally everywhere. You really cannot imagine your life without it. In addition, dependent people usually carefully (too carefully) monitor the level of charge, money on the account, and other things that can leave them unconnected. Some carry two phones – in case one is discharged or out of order.
Also, there is a constant desire to check whether there is a new message (even if audio notifications are set). Such people check their phone again and again. Often dependent people do not get out of the phone during “physical” meetings with friends and even in moments of intimacy with a loved one.
You don’t like to leave your phone far away and take it along even to the bathroom? Do you feel uncomfortable when you have to turn the phone off (for example, in an airplane or a theater)? Is the smartphone screen the last thing you see before going to bed and the first one when you wake up? All of these are signs that indicate that the gadget occupies a larger share in your life than it would be appropriate.
A separate side of this dependence is the desire to invest as much money as possible in your smartphone to make it the most expensive, beautiful, and cool. Regular change of devices in order to get the model with the maximum possible technical characteristics, purchase of all accessories and devices, constant installation and updating of many applications can also be considered an alarm bell. At the same time, it is worth mentioning that we are talking only about those situations when such changes are done precisely for the sake of changes.
What Causes Nomophobia and Dependence on a Mobile Phone?
Despite the fact that sometimes nomophobia and dependence on phones run separately from each other, as a rule, they are caused by the same processes. Often the root cause is unsolved personal problems that a person somehow masks and pushes inside themselves through the opportunities provided by modern technologies. So, often dependence on the phone or the fear of being left without it is associated with a sense of loneliness or fear in front of it. A person can have hundreds of friends on social networks and no one really close. However, this does not catch sight while access to virtual relationships with those same hundreds is open. Accordingly, fear/dependence appear because of the fact that such access can be permanently or temporarily closed.
Another problem is the inability to communicate and build relationships in the real world. So, a person transfers them to the virtual one. Here we recall that it is natural for a person to flee from reality due to a general dissatisfaction with their life or with any particular part of it (personal, professional, etc.), with increased stress, and so on. This phenomenon is called escapism. It is more or less common for all people. But sometimes it acquires unhealthy forms. In any case, a mobile phone is a very convenient tool for escapism. Due to the phone, you can read books, watch movies, play games, work or study 24 hours a day, etc. In other words, the gadget supports many traditional ways of escaping from reality.
Change of Personality
Secondly, it provides an opportunity to create yourself a completely different person and live another life. One can appear not themselves in the eyes of other people but the one they want to be. Of course, the creation of new personalities on the Internet is available not only from a mobile phone but it is the latter that allows you to return to the desired world at any time and from anywhere. And considering that for a person the real life is now not in the real world but on the Internet, they constantly strive to be there as their alter ego. As a result, there appears the fear of being left without a phone or dependency on it.
The device helps some people to feel important and needed because someone is constantly calling and texting them. If in reality, a person loses these feelings, sometimes they are compensated by a virtual world. A phone is a tool for this. On the other hand, without their electronic friend, such people feel emptiness or isolation from life. These are not the most pleasant sensations, are these? The desire to avoid them gives rise to dependence and nomophobia.
So-Called Advantages of a Smartphone
Sometimes the phone helps us to successfully procrastinate or hide the embarrassment. For example, it’s convenient to stare at the screen of the phone if the conversation with a colleague in the elevator is not set. The modern device gives us a sense of accessibility. Wherever we are, we can find on the Internet the answer to almost any question and buy anything. This gives self-confidence. What’s more, at difficult times it is always possible to get help on the phone. Thus, the deprivation of such a safety net sometimes affects a person too much.
There are of course other reasons. At the same time, for the most part, they are not connected with the phone itself but with internal problems of the individual. The gadget, as we said above, acts as a tool to help create an “everything is fine” image.
Over 66% owners of mobile phones suffer from nomophobia.
Out of a thousand people polled by SecurEnvoy in the UK more than two-thirds of respondents admitted fearing to remain without a mobile phone. In addition, 41% of respondents said that they have at least two phones to always stay in touch.
Women (70%) are more likely to fear to lose a mobile phone than men (61%). At the same time, the results of the survey showed that men more often have two phones than women (47 and 36% respectively). The younger a person is, the more often they suffer from nomophobia. In the age group from 18 to 24 years, the symptoms of this “disease” manifested in 77% of young people. Another high indicator – 68% – was recorded in the group from 25 to 34 years. The number of people experiencing discomfort because of parting with a mobile phone is growing every year. The same survey conducted in 2008 revealed only 53% of people suffering from nomophobia.
Symptoms of Nomophobia
One may not even notice how much they depend on their phone. If the following is familiar to you, it can speak about nomophobia:
- You are nervous when you cannot find your phone.
- You feel anger, panic, impending hysteria, rapid pulse, and dizziness when you lose your phone.
- The feeling of discomfort, trembling hands, and loss of control do not leave you until the moment you find your phone.
- The feeling of anxiety does not dissipate even if you spend 10 minutes without a phone.
- During a visit (an important meeting, a lesson, etc.) you constantly look at the phone, check your email and weather, check whether there is a signal, despite the fact that no one should call and text you right now.
- You don’t want to turn the phone off even in a situation that requires it.
- You take your phone along everywhere: to the beach, to the garden, to the car (at the wheel), to the store, to the bathroom, to the toilet, and keep it under the pillow during the night.
- If the SMS or call arrives the moment you cross the road, you pull the phone out, despite the danger.
- You are afraid that the phone will discharge and even carry a charge for this case.
- Constant checking whether there is a new SMS, a social network message or a missed call.
- You constantly follow all the novelties in the world of mobile technologies, update the phone, and buy various accessories.
- You regularly download pictures, games, and programs, change melodies and settings.
How to Get Rid of Nomophobia?
It’s clear that the fear of being without a phone and dependence on it are much more likely to hit young people. They are much more active in using high-tech devices and are familiar with them almost from birth. However, regardless of age, many do not recognize the presence of a phobia or addiction, explaining it by convenience, habit, or consequence of circumstances (for example, working need). Convenience, of course, takes place. And no one asks to completely give up phones, the Internet, etc. However, any dependency is actually becoming a limitation. And we suggest that you get rid not of the device but of this limitation.
As mentioned above, dependence on phones and fear of being without them, as a rule, is a consequence of other psychological problems. Therefore, first we must find out the root cause, perhaps with the help of specialists. If you feel that you have signs of nomophobia you may consult a psychologist, a personal development coach, etc. Otherwise, there is a great chance that, even after getting rid of the dependence on the phone, a person will acquire another dependence. It disguises the problems and creates the illusion that everything is in order.
Tips for Dealing with Nomophobia
As for the fight directly with phone dependence, we can identify a number of universal advice. Their main task is to help reduce the time spent with a gadget. This, in turn, will make it possible to understand that life without a device is possible. What’s more, without the phone life can even be brighter.
In this case, the way “I throw the smartphone away and will live without it” actually does not suit everyone. Sharp “loss” of the phone exacerbates dependence and phobias (like withdrawal syndrome). This leads to an even greater desire to take the gadget in your hands and never let go. Some people can overcome this condition. Others give up after some time and run after the new model. After that, the attempts to get rid of the disorders will be associated with even worse emotions. This does not contribute to treatment. That is why, in most cases, a gradual struggle against nomophobia and dependence is recommended.
Among simple but quite effective techniques, we suggest the following: put the mobile away from the bed. This will help to avoid the temptation to look at the screen in the morning. Do not take the smartphone into the bathroom. Think at least about the fact that humidity is contraindicated to most of the phones. After a while stop taking the phone to the kitchen. Finally, in general, give up the habit of carrying it around the apartment. Leave the phone at one place all the time. At work, do not take the phone out of your bag or jacket for as long as possible. Learn the rule to leave it there during meetings with friends, going to the movies, etc.
Try to Follow Other Recommendations
Try to turn the phone off for half an hour on a day off. Gradually increase this time. Another option is to turn off the sound for notifications and leave the signal only for calls. So you do not miss something really important, but the gadget will not always remind of itself. Reduce the number of applications that can notify you about something. Save only really necessary, for example, work mail.
Try not to spend too much time on social networks.
Find hobbies in the “real” world, including interpersonal communication. Invite your friends for a walk or go to the park. You don’t have to leave the phone at home if you know in advance that it will be difficult for you. Better turn the sound off and don’t take the phone out of your pocket. Try to get available on the smartphone content by other ways. For example, read a paper book, look for the information on the computer, and watch the movie on TV. This will introduce some variety. Once again it will show that life is not locked up on the mobile phone.
Keep in mind that in the case of obsessive fears and thoughts, if you understand that you cannot cope with this dependence on your own, it is always better to seek the help of a specialist.
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By Maria Shevtsova
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist. Taking action in support groups organization and social adaptation of the people with mental disorders. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the undepress.net project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who want to get their life back or help someone dear, who got into mental trap.
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