Cell phone addiction. It’s more serious than you think and it might be affecting you or loved ones around you.
In today’s digital age, we live in a time where everyone is connected to digital screens, programs, and machines. This is especially true during the time of the coronavirus pandemic when people are stuck home and left with nothing to do but look at a screen. But for younger generations, a legitimate dependency has developed due to their world perspective being so based around cellphones and computers. For members of Generation Z, there has never been a world without these society staples. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that many people have developed dependencies and addictions to these pieces of technology.
Now, there’s even a scientific term for the addiction to cell phones and the fear of being caught without out: nomophobia. According to Psychology Today, this term was coined by a 2010 study by the UK Post Office. The study found that nearly 53 percent of mobile 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 study also found that about 58 percent of men and 47 percent of women suffer from the phobia and an additional 9 percent feel stressed when their phones are off. 55 percent said the inability to keep in touch with family and friends was the main reason for that anxiety.
A 2015 study from Iowa State University clarified this term. The researchers from the university further defined the term and its triggers for those looking to study it and its effects later on.
“Nomophobia is considered a modern age phobia introduced to our lives as a byproduct of the interaction between people and mobile information and communication technologies, especially smartphones,” Caglar Yildirim, one of the study’s authors, told The Huffington Post. “It refers to fear of not being able to use a smartphone … [and] it refers to the fear of not being able to communicate, losing the connectedness that smartphones allow, not being able to access information through smartphones, and giving up the convenience that smartphones provide.”
But besides this basic understanding of nomophobia and the addiction to cell phones, how can you tell that you are challenged with them? The researchers from the 2015 Iowa State University study came up with a questionnaire. Through their study, the researchers identified four basic dimensions of nomophobia: not being able to communicate, losing connectedness, not being able to access information and giving up convenience. They then tested these dimensions by having 201 undergraduate students fill out the following questionnaire.
Are you a smartphone junkie? Rate each item on a scale of 1 (“completely disagree”) to 7 (“strongly agree”) and tally up your total score to find out. Be honest!
- I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.
- I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so.
- Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.
- I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.
- Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.
- If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.
- If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.
- If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.
- If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.
If I did not have my smartphone with me …
- I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.
- I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.
- I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.
- I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.
- I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.
- I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.
- I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.
- I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.
- I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.
- I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.
- I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.
But what are your results? The Scoring goes as follows:
20: You are not nomophobic. You have a healthy relationship with your cell phone and have no problem being apart from it.
21-60: You are mildly nomophobic. You may experience some mild feeling of worry or anxiety when your phone runs out of battery, but you can handle those fears.
61-100: You are moderately nomophobic. Let’s face it, you’ve got some attachment challenges concerning your phone. If you ever forget it at home, you feel a little lost. You also find yourself absentmindedly checking your cell phone for notifications or scrolling through social media and then thinking, “How did I get on my phone?”
101-120: You have severe nomophobia. It might be time for a serious intervention because you are constantly on your phone. The first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night is stare at your phone's screen. This thing is attached to your hands, hip, or general person at all times.
But if you do end up with some or a lot of nomophobia, how do you treat it? There are both self-help options and professional options that you can pursue.
In terms of self-help, you can try one of the following:
- Recognize Your Triggers: What are the causes of your attachment to your phone? Is it boredom or a mental/emotional challenge like loneliness, depression, or anxiety? What thoughts or activities lead to you going to your phone? Once you know a trigger, you can start to re-path your thoughts and activities to redirect yourself to healthier practices.
- Modify your smartphone use: To that effect, you can also modify your smartphone use by changing the ways that you use it. For instance, you can challenge yourself to not go to bed with your phone. Place your phone on the other end of the room or outside your bedroom when it’s time to sleep. Or, set goals for yourself for smartphone use such as going on social media only during certain hours of the day. Limiting your cell phone time can be a great way to tackle unhealthy attachments to it.
If you’re in need of professional help, here are options:
- Cognitive-behavioral treatment: As always, speak with a professional to see what kind of treatment is right for you. But perhaps cognitive-behavioral treatment is worthy of discussion. This type of therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive behaviors and can change your perceptions about your device. Generally, therapy can help you to confront and process difficult emotions and life experiences. We recommend talking to a professional to see if this is the right path for you.
- Group Support: Perhaps you would like a group to support you as you process through your attachment challenges. Groups like Tech Addiction Anonymous (ITAA) are available to tackles these life challenges with others who are experiencing the same thing.
- The National Hotline: There is also the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Hotline at 1-800-662-4357. This is a hotline that’s available 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year. You can receive information and help with behavioral addiction and get directions for where to pursue additional assistance.
You Can Surpass Nomophobia
We believe in you. Many of us are dealing with nomophobia. If you take the test above and believe that you are living with this challenge, we hope that you can find assistance and support to confront and triumph past this challenge. Again, we know you can do it!