Nomophobia – The Fear of Being Without Mobile Contact

I don’t think there are any of us who, believing we may have lost our mobile phone, have been filled with the horrendous anxious panic that makes us frantically pat our pockets in search of our sacred device. And with the colder weather approaching, it’s no laughing matter when considering the number of pockets one may have on one’s person.

While this may be a light-hearted entry into this subject, there is growing recognition of the anxiety caused by the lack of mobile contact as a genuine phobia. Although not currently recognised in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, it is surely only a matter of time when considering the sheer level of mobile phone use, and the increasing level of dependence on social media.

The term ‘Nomophobia’ was actually coined in 2008 in a study which was commissioned by the UK Post Office and is an abbreviation of ‘no more mobile-phone phobia’. From a cross-section of 2163 people, it was suggested that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage”. The levels of anxiety uncovered were directly compared to those of wedding day jitters.

Further research stemmed from this, which delved deeper into the nature of this so-named ‘over-connection syndrome’. Of a considerably more serious nature, Shambare, Rugimbana & Zhowa (2012) cited nomophobia as “possibly the biggest non-drug addiction of the 21st century”.

In Australia 946 adolescents and ‘emerging adults’ were subjected to a research study which was specifically designed to observe mobile phone use and mobile dependency, plotting the differences between both and assessing whether there truly was a ‘pathological’ condition which could be observed. No clear pathological condition was observed, yet there were clearly evidenced attachments and associated attachment anxiety. What was also clear is that there were pre-existing pathological disorders which seemed to predetermine who would have the attachment issues, such as those with panic disorders and anxiety disorders. Therein lies the grey area of course because it cannot (yet) be clearly evidenced that Nomophobia isn’t another manifestation of other disorders. However, with no abatement in sight to the appeal and development of mobile phone technology for social connection purposes, you can be sure this is an area of study that will long continue.

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