Do you constantly check your smartphone for notifications or find yourself unable to focus at work or at school without your smartphone?
You are likely to be suffering from nomophobia, an abbreviation for no-mobile-phone phobia.
According to The Telegraph, the clinical term was coined four years ago after the first study in the U.K revealed that 53 per cent of people suffered from the condition which is characterised as "the fear of being out of mobile phone contact". With smartphones becoming an integral part of our lifestyle today, it is no surprise that nomophobia is affecting more people especially the younger generation.
Based on a HuffPost / YouGov survey conducted in September 2013, 64 per cent of smartphone users aged between 18 - 29 years old admitted that they had fallen asleep with a smartphone or tablet in their bed.
Another survey done by Harris Interactive in August last year revealed these startling findings:
- 63 per cent of people check their smartphones at least once an hour.
- 9 per cent of people check their smartphones every five minutes.
- 63 per cent of people would feel upset if they left home without their smartphone.
- When people are without their smartphones, they miss messaging (29 per cent) and calling (26 per cent) most.
- 97 per cent of smartphone owners check their phones frequently while they are with family members and friends.
Dr. David Greenfield, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, who spoke to Business Insider on nomophobia, said that smartphone addiction is similar to other addictions as it involves a dysregulation of dopamine. It is a hormone and neurotransmitter that controls the brain's reward centre. He explained it further in the quote below:
"Every time you get a notification from your phone, there's a little elevation in dopamine that says you might have something that's compelling, whether that's a text message from someone you like, an email, or anything," Greenfield said to Business Insider. "The thing is you don't know what it's going to be or when you're going to get it, and that's what compels the brain to keep checking. It's like the world's smallest slot machine."
As with any form of addiction, people suffering from nomophobia may not know or are in denial of the condition. So how do you know whether you are suffering from nomophobia?
Here are some symptoms of the condition aside from the ones mentioned above:
- Have one or more devices
- Spending considerable time on the smartphone
- Always carrying a charger
- Feeling nervous at the thought of losing the phone, when it is not available nearby or cannot be used due to a lack of network coverage, flat battery
- Constant need to check for notifications
- Prefer to communicate with other people via phones and avoid face-to-face interactions
- Incur expensive phone bills
Social media addicts are particularly vulnerable to nomophobia. Greenfield says that getting a lot of likes on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram creates a feeling of self-importance that isn't real.
"That feeling you're going to miss something if you're not constantly checking is an illusion - most parts of our lives are not relevant to our smartphones," Greenfield said. "What happens on our devices is not reflective of what happens in real life."
Earlier this year, Alvin Soon, the Associate Features Editor, noted in his blog post that many people in Singapore are glued to the screens of their mobile devices on public transport. He calls the deference to the smartphone as the posture of our age.
If you experience some of the symptoms above, it's time to take some action to counter nomophobia. For example, you can implement a rule with your friends to not check the phones at gatherings. You also can try switching off your phone at the dinner table with your family. Schedule a certain amount of time each day to turn it off and focus on other activities such as exercising.
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