Nomophobia: A condition of the digital age

Nomophobia is described as the condition of being tense and/or anxious when not having access to a mobile phone. The condition is also known as no-mobile-phone-phobia. Recent research conducted by an Internet security firm has indicated that this condition of the digital age is growing at a rapid rate.

The research was conducted in the UK using a series of surveys to determine individuals’ attachment to their cellular devices. The study had 1,000 participants. The results found that approximately 66% of those who participated in the survey suffered from nomophobia. This was an increase of around 11% from a previous study conducted in 2008.

Technology is overtaking our bodies, one gadget at a time. Graphic by Caitlin Lewis.

Nomophobia is an international issue. Research is being conducted in places such as India, China and Singapore to fully understand the condition. While it is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, some researchers feel that it is only a matter of time before the condition is included in the diagnostic manual as cellphone usage spreads worldwide.

Those at highest risk for the condition are between the ages of 18-24, and use their cellphone for more than three hours a day. Women within that age group are about 9% more likely to suffer from the condition than men.

The causes for this condition are still under speculation by the research community. Michael Carr-Gregg, an expert in this budding research, is looking into the causes and solutions for nomophobia. Carr-Gregg is an adolescent psychologist working in Melbourne. According to Carr-Gregg, the mobile phone has become the modern day security blanket: it allows young adults and others to have constant access to their support networks, but also becomes an addiction by not allowing individuals time to be alone and reflect.

A psychiatrist from the University of Hong Kong, Eric Yu Hai Chen, has said to CNN, “One could look at this as a form of addiction to the phone. The fear is part of the addiction. The use of a hand-held phone has some features that predispose this activity to addiction, similar to video games, naming, easy access.”

Most experts and researchers contend that the initial reason for getting a mobile phone is to relieve stress and anxiety. This makes sense, as many get mobile phones as a lifeline in case of an emergency and from society labeling cellphones a central part of our lives. This continues until they are no longer just a means to reduce stress and anxiety about an uncertain world, but that they become a necessity and thus a source of stress when something happens to them.

Nomophobia is a condition that can only be on the rise. As more people worldwide begin to access mobile phones, it only makes sense that more cases of this condition will come to pass. Cellphones are an integral part of many people’s lives, from work to providing a link to a support structure that may not be close by, but it is important to remember that cellphones are tools; they should not become an indispensable part of life.