Nomophobia: New Form of Addiction. Is It Disease?
Nomophobia is the fear of being without your mobile phone or losing signal. This term is an abbreviation for the expression “no-mobile-phone phobia”. In fact, a few psychological factors are involved in the overuse of a mobile phone. For example, individuals looking for reassurance use their mobile phone in inappropriate ways. Nomophobic symptoms may be also caused by preexisting mental disorders. For example, people suffering from social phobia or anxiety disorder, mania, anxiety, and panic disorder are perfect candidates for nomophobia symptoms.
Nonophobia was discovered and defined in 2010 by YouGov, a UK research organization. Their study found that more than 50% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they (and we quote) “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage”. Besides, about 10% of all users feel stressed when their cell phones are off. The numbers vary in men and women, as about 58% of men and less than 47% of women suffer from this syndrome.
Symptoms of nomophobia may include the following: anxiety, respiratory alterations, hands trembling, perspiration, agitation, disorientation, tachycardia, depression, panic, fear, dependence, rejection, low self-esteem, loneliness, etc. Even more, more than one in two nomophobes never switch off their mobile phones. Let’s face the truth: cell phones have become the biggest non-drug addiction of our times, they certainly lead to dependence and enslave those addicted.
Let’s also admit that with technological changes, new techno-phobias have emerged. Today, these phobias have become mainstream in our society. Youngsters may spend up to ten hours every day on their phones. Maybe that’s why about 75% of teens or even more (according to some surveys) have anxiety and worries in the case of being without their mobile phones.
One study conducted by the School of Continuing Studies of the University of Toronto (Canada) demonstrated that frequent cell phone usage is correlated with decreases in GPA (grade point average) and increased anxiety. These phenomena negatively impact well-being and happiness of those who talk too much over the telephone and over-use their cell phones. Anxiety may also increase due to the pressure to be connected to social networks, with all the charge of daily stress.
Altogether, people suffering of anxiety disorders and other mental issues are prone to mobile phone dependency. Anxiety may be provoked by the loss of a mobile phone, loss of reception, or even a dead mobile phone battery. Some other symptoms of nomophobia may include using the phone impulsively, always carrying devices with access to the Internet, as well as a charger. They may experience feelings of anxiety even when thinking about losing the mobile. Some individuals avoid engaging with others and remain in isolation, which can be symptoms of psychological mood disorders such as depression and decreased face-to-face interactions with other humans. They keep the device in reach when sleeping and never turn it off. They look at the phone screen frequently to avoid missing any call, text message or notification. A new term has been introduced to describe all of this: ringxiety.
Note that nomophobia can lead to an increase of debt due to the excessive use of data and the different devices the person can have.
According to Dr. Megan Jorgensen, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) could be effective by reinforcing autonomous behavior independent from technological influences. However, this therapy is very new and needs to be confirmed as the whole concept of nomphobia is fairly new. Another treatment is Reality Approach, or Reality Therapy, asking patients to focus behaviors away from cell phones.
Neuropsychopharmacology may help, ranging from benzodiazepines to antidepressants in usual doses. Patients were also successfully treated using tranylcypromine combined with clonazepam. However, it is important to note that these medications were designed to treat social anxiety disorder and not nomophobia directly.