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"Nomophobia" Plagues Most of Us

"Nomophobia"—the fear of being without your phone—afflicts more and more people, an expert tells The Fix.

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By Sarah Beller

05/10/12

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Do you glance at your cellphone despite having done so just seconds earlier? If so, you may be suffering from a phenomenon that British researchers term nomophobia ("No Mobile(phone) Phobia")the fear of separation from your mobile phone. Symptoms include: obsessive checking, constant worrying about losing it even when it's in a safe place, and never turning it off. According to a recent study from mobile tech company SecurEnvoy, people check their phones 34 times a day on averageand 75% of people surveyed say they take their phones to the bathroom. And nomophobia is apparently on the rise, with 66% of us meeting the criteria for the conditionup from 53% four years ago.

One 22-year-old woman from New York tells The Fix, “My heart sometimes races as I approach the stairs leaving the subway, waiting for service to kick in.” And 27-year-old Lauren says that she once awoke from a nap to find herself cuddling with her phone. Nomophobia can also create a feeling of disorientationas comedian Kelly Oxford tweeted: "Every time I'm talking on my iPhone, I look for my iPhone." According to the study, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be afflicted. But it’s not just young people who display symptoms: New Yorker Dave, 31, says that while out with his parents, he'll often “realize at some point that they are both texting/tweeting/whatevering.”

Dr. David Greenfield, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction (virtual-addiction.com), tells us that although nomophobics rarely seek treatment primarily for the condition, it has emerged as an ancillary complaint for a rising number of his patients. He says cell phone addiction has a huge impact on his patients’ relationships, work productivity and driving safety. “It's not so much the behavior itself,” he explains, “as the imbalance it creates in the rest of your life… Cell phones act like small slot machines. Every text, web search, or email carries with it unpredictable rewards in the form of a hit of dopamine to the brain.” Limiting your use of cellphone technology, he advises, is the first step towards getting help.

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