A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation, which the sufferer goes to great lengths to avoid.
Usually the stress or anxiety is disproportional to the level of danger that actually exists and is often recognised as irrational. Nomo is an abbreviation for no mobile phone; thus, nomophobia is defined as the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.
In earlier days, mobile phones were a symbol of money and success, nowadays even children find them a necessity of life. Mobile phones have a huge influence in our everyday lives providing us with 24/7 contact with friends and family, constant internet access and a portable all in one device.
Despite these great benefits, mobile phones don’t go without their disadvantages. For many people, their mobile phone has become an extension of themselves. Excessive use can create distraction from work and study, disrupt sleeping patterns, enable cyber-bullying and reduce interpersonal closeness.
Signs of Nomophobia
The symptoms of Nomophobia include:
- An inability to turn off your mobile phone;
- Obsessively checking for missed calls, texts, emails, Facebook etc;
- Taking your mobile phone to the bathroom with you;
- Not being able to focus on conversations or work;
- Feelings of desperation or panic when separated from your mobile phone;
- Thinking that your mobile phone is ringing or vibrating when it is not.
A Brief History of Nomophobia
The term “nomophobia” was coined during a 2010 study commissioned by the United Kingdom Post Office, that examined anxieties suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage. The study compared stress levels induced by the average case of nomophobia to be on par with those of “wedding day jitters” and trips to the dentist.
Just four years later, a similar study conducted by SecurEnvoy (the pioneers of mobile phone tokenless authentication) revealed that anxiety in mobile phone users had risen to 66%. The study showed that on average, people check their mobile phones 34 times a day; and young people aged 18-24 were the most attached to their mobile phone, with 77% unable to stay apart from their phone for more than a few minutes.
It is natural to avoid the thing or situation you fear, but when it comes to conquering phobias, facing your fears is key.
The most effective way to overcome your phobia is by gradually and repeatedly exposing yourself to what you fear, in a safe and controlled way. By gradually facing your fear, you will begin to realise that the worst isn’t going to happen. Overcoming nomophobia will take planning, practice and patience. The following tips will help you develop a plan:
- Try to go an hour without checking your phone for messages, missed calls etc, and slowly increase this to two then three hours.
- Do not take your phone to the bathroom or to the table when you are eating.
- Balance phone and in-person time. Try not to use your mobile phone when speaking to someone in-person, by reminding yourself that you may cause irritation and resentment in the other person.
- Make time in the day to turn your phone off and experience face-to-face conversations or solitude.
- Place your phone on the other side of your bedroom when you go to sleep.
- Try a technology free day once a month. Turn your phone off or leave it at home, and go out and experience the world.
If your mobile phone is taking over your life and causing you anxiety, it might be time to set yourself some digital boundaries. If you are not sure where to start, or need some support in your journey, please feel free to book an appointment with one of our qualified therapists.
Authors: Melanie Green and Susanne Gilmour
- SecurEnvoy. (2012). 66% of the population suffer from Nomophobia the fear of being without their phone. Retrieved via www.securenvoy.com