Do you have smartphone anxiety?
While your smartphone’s constant updates could trigger anxiety, you can also have a fear of losing or forgetting your phone too. Here are the signs you may have nomophobia, or a no-mobile-phone phobia.
Go anywhere and you’ll see a lot of people with their head buried in their phone. That intense focus on our devices carries some modern-day tech problems, such as “phubbing”—phone-snubbing someone you’re with. Then there’s the “smombie” phenomenon: Short for smartphone zombie, it means you’re spacing out zombie-like on your phone while walking down the road or, worse, crossing the street.
And then there’s “nomophobia,” or no-mobile-phone phobia, which is the fear of being away from your phone; this one can do real damage to your quality of life and health.
What is nomophobia?
Nomophobia refers to “anxiety about not having access to a mobile phone or mobile phone services,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which officially added the word in 2019. However, mobile phone-related anxiety isn’t new.
In fact, the term was coined in 2008 by the UK Post Office to determine if mobile phones were feeding anxiety, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. At the time, about half of respondents at the time said they felt stress when not in contact with their phones. Fast forward a dozen years later, and it’s only gotten worse.
That said, nomophobia is not considered a diagnosable mental health condition as it’s not listed in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the gold standard for psychiatric conditions. (Although in 2014, researchers proposed that nomophobia be included in the DSM, according to a review published in Psychology Research and Behavior Management.)
Nomophobia can hurt your sleep
A 2020 study published in the journal Sleep found that 90 percent of the 327 university students surveyed could be characterised as having moderate to severe nomophobia. Unfortunately, nomophobia was associated with sleep disruption, daytime sleepiness, and poor sleep hygiene habits.
Participants admitted to checking e-mail, texts, or social media after turning off their lights to go to bed, explains Jennifer Peszka, PhD, study co-author. For you, that might look like a lot of things: It might be catching up on social media in bed, waking up to check your phone in the middle of the night, or keeping notifications on while you sleep.