December 21, 2016 | by Patrick Icasas
You’ve got Nomophobia, but it’s not the end of the world (Yet)
There’s a serious condition spreading over the entire population of modern society. It does not discriminate between gender, race or social status. It’s insidious, creeping in so quietly that the infected often don’t notice the symptoms until it is too late.
If you have a mobile phone, you are at risk.
What is nomophobia?
Nomophobia actually stands for “no-mobile-phone-phobia.” It refers to the powerful feeling of anxiety or stress you experience if your mobile device is unavailable.
The more we rely on our phones, the more at risk we are of developing nomophobia. Whether we experience loss of signal, a dead battery or forget the phone entirely, any loss of function or access to our phone causes us physical and emotional distress.
I know what you’re thinking. “You’re joking, right?”
I’m not! Nomophobia is real, and the scientific and medical community is paying attention. It was first brought major attention in 2010, where a British study found that 54% of people polled said they feel anxious when experiencing a loss of signal, battery or device. It’s even worse in the US, where 66% of people suffer from nomophobia, and more than half of people surveyed never turn off their phone.
Why is nomophobia such a big deal?
It sounds really minor at first. After all, what’s the big deal if you miss your device? You’d act the same way if you forgot your watch or your wallet, right?
Nomophobia has all-too-real effects on a person’s concentration and performance. In 2015, Kashfia Nehrin Rahman, a high school student in South Dakota, conducted a study on her peers by confiscating their phones and asking them to perform several tasks involving memory, attention, motor skills, and response time.
The result? A person’s skills were worse when separated from phones than those who had them. Kashfia concluded that phone dependency leads to more stress and hampers attention and focus.
Not only that, but an over-reliance on phones for social contact can both lead to and be a symptom of larger psychological issues. Panic disorder, social anxiety and agoraphobia are just some psychological disorders that got worse due to the absence of a mobile phone.
Woah. So how can I be sure I have it?
Just worrying about your phone isn’t enough to call it nomophobia. Iowa State University researchers built a test you can take to assess if you have nomophobia, and how serious (or not) it is.
Some of the test items are listed below. Keep in mind that this is not the same as a full psychological diagnosis, so take the results with a grain of salt.
Score yourself on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree) for the following statements:
- Running out of battery for my smartphone scares me
- I would panic if I run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit
- If I couldn’t check my smartphone for a while, I’d feel a strong desire to check it
- If I didn’t have a data or Wi-Fi signal, then I’d constantly check to see if I had one or could find another Wi-Fi network
If I didn’t have my smartphone with me...
- I would feel anxious because I couldn’t instantly communicate with my family/friends
- I would feel nervous because I couldn’t know if someone tried to get a hold of me
- I would feel weird because I wouldn’t know what to do
If you want to complete the test, you can go to the full list of questions.
Yikes. So how do I treat my nomophobia?
Fortunately there are ways of reducing your reliance on your smartphone. It’s going to be painful at first, but it can be done!
1. Set a schedule for checking your phone
You don’t need to check your notifications every single minute. Instead, schedule it out to workable intervals and only pick up your phone then. Urgent calls or texts are the exception, of course, but don’t cheat and consider everything “urgent.”
Try small periods first, like every fifteen minutes or once every half hour. Then, just like exercise, slowly expand that period to an hour to maybe even once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how much you don’t need to pick up your mobile device.
2. Create a phone-free zone
My parents had a strict rule: no phones at the dinner table. If you wanted to use your phone, you had to leave the room (and miss dinner!)
This was very effective at keeping me grounded and still capable (and willing) to have meaningful face-to-face conversations with my folks, and is something I’m trying to adopt now that I have a family of my own.
Establish your own “phone-free zones” or, even better, lock up your phone until your next scheduled check-in time comes up. I do this in my own office, where I put my smartphone on silent and put it in my desk drawer at the start of the day.
3. Find something else to do
Like you, I often check my phone when there’s nothing to do. But don’t let boredom be an excuse.
Take your mind away from your smartphone and immerse yourself in some other engaging activity, like reading or exercise. Even the simple act of talking to someone face to face can help you forget about the monkey on your back that’s your smartphone.