Nomophobia is the fear of losing access to a mobile phone or mobile phone services. The Oxford English Dictionary officially added the word in the year 2019. However, it was first coined in 2008 by the UK Post Office. The fact that cellphones causes anxiety was known long ago, yet a term was introduced later on. The name is generally derived from “No Mobile Phone Phobia.”
Nomophobia is another form of anxiety that not only gives people nauseous feelings in their guts but may doom their hearts too. The reason behind it varies from person to person depending upon the mental and psychic conditions of one’s body. Some are afraid to lose contact with people, while others may worry about updating their social media.
However, nomophobia is not a diagnosable mental health condition so far. And it did not get listed in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It is the gold standard for all kinds of psychiatric conditions. However, in a research paper published in 2014, researchers proposed adding it in DSM.
Nomophobia is mainly the fear of losing contact with the smartphone and its applications. Like drug addiction, people become frustrated or depressed when they do not get their hands on their phones after a while. They may have stressful dreams about losing their phones or not contacting their friends and family. Even the thought of someone else scrolling through their phone may give them butterflies in the stomach.
Along with depression, stress, and anxiety, nomophobia is also associated with sleep disruption, daytime sleepiness, and poor sleep hygiene habits, including excessive napping, sedentary lifestyle, and uneasiness. Other symptoms are low self-esteem, panic attacks, agitation, irritation, and introverted personality. Mental disorders like social phobia, social anxiety, and panic disorders also relate to nomophobia.
Nomophobia can also put economic strains on the family as purchasing these gadgets and internet services is not economical. It can also lead to physical problems like tightness in your chest, trembling or shaking, abnormal breathing, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, neck stiffness, pain in elbow and hands joints, stress on the eyes, headache, etc. People, mainly adults, are prone to such health factors.
There are various studies to report the behavioral patterns of the participants included in the study. They admitted that they keep checking their notifications, emails, messages, and social media apps, even in the middle of the night. They keep their ‘notifications on’ not to miss a single piece of information. Some of them have the habit of scrolling through their news feed, and others keep digging into the sad news all over the media. Some reported that they wouldn’t contact friends or their family if they need any help. Some are only worried about keeping an eye on what’s going around.
You might have nomophobia if you have such habits of digging your head into your phone all the time. If you can’t go to sleep without scrolling through your news feed, keep your notifications on even before going to bed, feel uncomfortable when you misplace your phone, you might have nomophobia. It is like your mobile phone has rendered you helpless. You always make sure that it is in your hand or at least in your pocket.
And as soon as anybody takes it away from you, it makes you feel go crazy and dizzy than you have ever been. As in addiction, you build tolerance by regular intake of the drug, and you need more and more of it by the passing time. Likewise, you want to use your phone more and more. And if anybody tries to keep you away from the phone, you start feeling restless and uncomfortable by the time.
Even all the gadgets you’re using at your home are addictive. It is because they are all “psychoactive.” It means that they alter your hormone balance. In simple words, they trigger amusing feelings in a human body that won’t allow him to get rid of it any time soon. Moreover, people seek pleasure by checking their social apps and indulging in the media, mainly their emails. They are supposed to give people satisfaction and reinforcement through exciting catches.
The health effects of nomophobia can vary from person to person. It could either be mild, like ignoring your friends while updating your status on social media, or it can be severe, leading to dysfunctionality. They might turn their eyes away from distressed relatives just because they’re busy in their own social life. However, the severity depends on how much smartphones disrupt your work routine or personal life.
An average user checks his smartphone 35 times a day for about 30 seconds each time. Whereas more than 50% of people who have nomophobia never switch off their smartphones. Cell phones are the biggest addiction of the 21st century. A college student spends an average of 9 hours per day on social media. Unfortunately, today more than 77% of teens report anxiety when they have to stay away from their mobile phones.
As per a study, 61% of people check their mobile phones when they get up in the morning. There is stress on almost every adult to keep up with the social updates daily. That is why there is a consistent decline seen in students’ grade point average (GPA) and mental health since technological advancements. Pressure for continually being connected to mobile phones increases anxiety as it leaves no time for students to get relaxed and relieve daily stress. It keeps on growing and eventually may lead to a mental dysfunctionality.
Nomophobia is therefore emerging as a threat to our social, psychological, and physical health. Smart gadgets are part and parcel of every human being. They all need it to get their works done like shopping, freelancing, cooking, blogging, etc. In short, today’s life is not possible without smart gadgets in one’s hands. And the excess of everything is terrible not only for our physical but mental health too. Everybody needs to minimize the consumption of this drug unless it starts leaving marks on minds and bodies. Though technology did wonders and still brings incredible advancements to our daily lives, mental health comes first.
Thus, technology may give you a hard time managing your mental, emotional, and physical health. Moreover, it can disrupt your daily activities and even your relationship with friends and family. If you feel such distress, you surely need a therapist to seek treatment. Usually, therapy can help reduce the stress and other symptoms of nomophobia. There are two ways in which your therapist can help:
1.Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a treatment to combat negative thoughts and emotions that emerge when you are not in touch with your phone. The feeling of not getting in touch with the world again can make you feel anxious to the extent that you may have a breathing problem. CBT can help you change this thought with reasoning and logic. For example, instead, you might think, “sometimes it’s good to take a break and make a new impression on the world.” Nevertheless, it is not the end of the world if you only lose your phone. Be like people who have real-life problems like no electricity, shortage of food and water, losing a child, etc.
As the name suggests, it helps you cope with your fears by a little and gradual exposure to it. Let’s say, if you have nomophobia, the fear of losing your contact with your phone always stays with you. It might not be very comforting at the start, but exposure therapy helps you to stay away from the phone in some healthy ways. The first exposure might be of short duration and will prolong gradually. In this way, you’ll learn that your mobile phone is not the only thing left in the world. You’ve got plenty of things to do apart from feeling anxious. It brings stability to your mind and body. This therapy acts just like a ‘reward therapy’ and may help you avoid your phone entirely.
It is not usually recommendable to treat a phobia with medication. But it can help you deal with its severe symptoms. It doesn’t rule it out completely but can help you cope with extreme anxiety and fear.
- Beta-Blockers: It helps treat physical symptoms of the phobia, such as dizziness, abnormal breathing, or heart rate. You take these pills before the symptoms show up, like going to a place where you’ll lose internet services or so.
- Benzodiazepines: It can help you reduce your anxiety levels when you think about not having a phone or other gadgets. Your body starts getting dependent on these drugs, so these are only recommended for short intervals as they are only to treat extreme symptoms. Hence, they are only for short-term use. Because what affects the most is self-care.
The best method to treat a phobia is self-care. The only thing that can help you challenge your fears is self-awareness. You are the only person to help yourself. Be strong and take action. Tell your mind that enough is enough. You are your own master, and only you can rule yourself. Take hold and accept the challenge that stands in your way to a healthy and everyday life. And soon, such things will vanish away. Set some challenges for yourself and tell your mind to abide by them, no matter what, and you will see things happening your way. Where there is a will, there is a way. That’s how it goes:
- Turn off your phone at night time to get a sound sleep of 6-8 hours. If you get up in the night and have this urge to check your phone, strictly tell your mind to go back to sleep or instead leave your phone outside the room where you can’t quickly go and check.
- Take a walk away from your phone. Yes, try leaving your phone back and go out for an activity that is healthy enough to keep you distracted. You can set time with your friends to play a sport, do grocery, take your pet out, etc. It is all about taking a break from your phone and how good it can make you feel.
- Set a time in a day when you don’t have any gadgets around. It can go like having a game with your family members, playing chess with your friend, sitting in a garden or taking a walk by the beach, etc. It will also encourage your loved ones to have in-person interactions.
Therefore, nomophobia is a growing concern especially in the 21st century. Do not let the technology overwhelm you in a way that you might regret later. Take a step ahead of the time, change your lifestyle and be your own master.
Until Next Time,
Team Doctor ASKY!