“Without a phone it’s like without a hand” – how many times have we heard or uttered this phrase ourselves? The cell phone accompanies us at home and at work. We always have it with us. But what if its absence causes panic?
Psychologists and addiction therapists notice and define further phenomena related to addictions. One of them is nomophobia, or anxiety associated with not having access to a cell phone. Who is in the risk group and what to do when we notice worrying symptoms?
Definition of the phenomenon
The term nomophobia was first used in 2018 by British researchers. At that time, they conducted a large-scale study of what fears accompany people who use cell phones on a daily basis. More than half of the respondents indicated that they felt anxious in situations when: they lose their phone, have a dead battery, or are out of cellular network range.
Nomophobia is a term taken from the English language, in which the word nomophobia is a conglomeration that is a shortened version of the words: no mobile phone phobia. So literally it means phobia of not having a cell phone
Professor Agnieszka Ogonowska, in her book “Uzależnienia medialne, czyli o pathologicznym wykorzystanie mediów” [Media Addictions, or the Pathological Use of Media] writes about the phenomenon of phonoholism, defining it in the following way: phonoholism consists in “an uncontrolled compulsion to use a cell phone all the time to ‘stay in touch'”.
Habit or addiction?
Cell phones came into widespread use relatively recently. But they have taken the market and consumers’ hearts by storm. Today, virtually all of us have at least one phone for personal use. What was supposed to bring freedom, greater independence and ease in communication, paradoxically became a completely opposite tool. Direct interpersonal contacts are disappearing, or at least they are very difficult for young people. We are on the leash of the phone nonstop at work or chasing after the latest information.
Answering calls, replying to messages and staying in touch with the world is quite a habit. After all, we can quickly contact our partner, check where the child is, how the parents are feeling. The line between habit and addiction is quite hard to define. Especially since we don’t treat attachment to the phone as an obsession that requires treatment.
Nomophobia is very difficult to diagnose and notice in adults. We find it easier to spot this problem in children. Things that should get our special attention are:
- addiction to phone calls,
- addiction to texting and corresponding via apps,
- intrusive, frequent glancing at the phone,
- involuntary and excessive reaching for the phone,
- compulsion to check phone display (every few minutes),
- lack of focus on the person they are talking to and sitting with their nose in the phone,
- fear of not having the phone nearby,
- fear of battery drain,
- in children, hysterical reactions to having the phone taken away, compulsive gaming,
- exclusion of people because they don’t have a phone or because they have inferior phones.
When nomophobia becomes a threat
Phone addiction has many negative consequences. From difficulty making friends, lowered self-esteem and shyness, to tragic traffic accidents. Addicted phone users don’t pay attention to the traffic situation and as a result, whether on foot or in a car, they get into accidents and cause them themselves.
We certainly shouldn’t give phones to children “for peace of mind”. Smartphone use by children and teenagers should be supervised by adults. We ourselves should also pay attention to the frequency of phone use. The blue light emitted by smartphones is not beneficial to the body – in particular, we should put the phone away before going to bed. It is worth conducting an experiment on your own curiosity and part with your phone, for example for a weekend. Thanks to this we will be able to check how the body reacts to such a separation.
Treatment of nomophobia is not easy. This phenomenon is relatively new, phone use is often obligatory e.g. due to work. However, addiction therapists know the right techniques, thanks to which, for our health and safety, we will be able to successfully break the addiction.
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