Nomophobia

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by Esmee Brilot & Inés Álamo López

The constant availability of access to technologies and the internet is universally considered as the major advantage of the century. However, every coin is double sided and technologies are also having a huge impact on our psychological well-being as they have caused a monumental alteration in our behavior and lifestyle. The clearest example is nomophobia, which is “the discomfort or anxiety caused by the non-availability of a mobile phone, PC or any other virtual communication device” (King et al., 2013; p. 140).

Maybe the most obvious characteristic is the time spent on the phone during the daytime. People with nomophobia tend to use their phones for the large majority of the day and even carry a charger with them. Because when technology is used during a large amount of time, the battery will flatten. When that happens many people feel anxious and nervous about the thought that their phone will run out of life (Bragazzi et al. 2014). Another attitude that people with nomophobia presumably have is keeping the mobile phone always turned on. For 24 hours a day, the phone is accessible and can be used by the person. They also tend to sleep with the mobile phone by their side (Bragazzi et al., 2014).

Devices can be used impulsively, for example, to look at the phone’s screen to see whether there are incoming messages or calls (Bragazzi et al., 2014). This is a habit referred to as ‘ringxiety’.  It is a condition where people hear or feel an incoming call or text when there is none (Subba et al., 2013). Technology can also be used as a way to evade any social interaction. Some people favor the use of new technology for regular communication. When this behavior is repetitive, it could lead to having anxiety and stress when confronted with a real-life interaction with other humans (Bragazzi et al, 2014).

Although this disease is still not included in the DSM manual, the increasing awareness has led to some scientists proposing to pay more attention to the psychopathological effects of the media (Bragazzi et al., 2014). Researchers can already pin down certain behaviors or clinical characteristics of nomophobia. Despite the lack of a specific treatment for nomophobia, we see an increase in the use of apps that focus on reducing the time spent on the mobile phone. One example is OFFTIME, an app that helps people to control the time they are with the mobile phone by providing feedback on how they are making use of this device and allowing them to limit their access to some apps and block messages and calls if they want to (Offtime, 2020). However, there are still no long-term data about the effectiveness of any of those apps. 

To conclude: Although electronic devices have plenty of advantages, society must also be aware of the potential risks. It is, therefore, recommendable to ask ourselves whether we control our mobile phone usage or is the mobile phone who controls our lives, and if so, take actions such as downloading one of the apps to reduce the mobile use.

References

Bragazzi, N. L., & Del Puente, G. (2014). A proposal for including nomophobia in the new DSM-V. Psychology research and behavior management, 7, 155-160. doi: https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S41386

King, A. L. S., Valença, A. M., Silva, A. C. O., Baczynski, T., Carvalho, M. R., & Nardi, A. E. (2013). Nomophobia: Dependency on virtual environments or social phobia? Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), 140-144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2012.07.025

King, A. L. S., Guedes, E., Neto, J. P., Guimarães, F., & Nardi, A. E. (2017). Nomophobia: Clinical and demographic profile of social network excessive users. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, 8(4), 339. https://doi.org/10.4172/2155-6105.1000339

OFFTIME. (2020). OFFTIME – Digital disconnection (Version 4.1.2) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=co.offtime.kit&hl=nl

Subba, S. H., Mandelia, C., Pathak, V., Reddy, D., Goel, A., Tayal, A., … & Nagaraj, K. (2013). Ringxiety and the mobile phone usage pattern among the students of a medical college in South India. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 7(2), 205-209. https://doi.org/ 10.7860/JCDR/2013/4652.2729

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