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Nomophobia: Disconnect and Detox

mobiles Do you leave your home with your phone and have it with you at all times?

Do you refuse to read and follow written instructions and demand to “speak to a human being” when dealing with businesses online?

Do you sleep with your phone?

Do you ever turn your phone off?

Addiction in a Mobile World

Research reveals less than half of smartphone users actually use their handsets for calling. The more users view their phone’s menu screens, news, e-mail and apps throughout the day the more addicted they become. Apps that offer “informational rewards” only feed smartphone addiction, so  looking at a Facebook status with real-time updates about location, for example, contributes to the cycle.

The brain’s dopamine system allows humans to experience pleasure and reward, but people who are addicted to the Internet have fewer, or impaired, dopamine receptors, making it difficult to feel rewards without extra effort.


Nomophobia is the word first coined by British researchers in 2008  for the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.  The first study into nomophobia in the UK revealed that 53% of mobile users suffered from the condition.  The 2012 study British cellphone technology company SecurEnvoy reveals 66% of the mobile users suffer from Nomophobia.

Symptoms of Nomophobia

  • Panic and anxiety when separated from the phone
  • Having multiple phones
  • Compulsive checking of phone for messages, battery life
  • Using phone in inappropriate places
  • Phone activity becoming an issue in relationships, work or school

Nomophobia – fear of being without mobile contact

Nomophobia Demographics

  •  (18 – 24) age group was most nomophobic at 77%,
  • 25 – 34 age group second most nomophobic at 68%
  • 55 and older age group was third most nomophobic at 36%

Causes of Nomophobia

  • insecurity
  • lack of self control
  • impatience
  • boredom
  • dopamine craving

Does Forgetting Your Phone At Home Make You Antsy? Associate professor of psychology James Hamilton recently explained:

“Cellphones are negatively reinforcing because they provide an easy and immediate relief from feelings of anxiety, social exclusion or boredom … This is the great danger of cellphone dependency – the general erosion of our ability to wait, postpone gratification, deal directly with our fears and tolerate being bored or alone with ourselves.”

Internet Use Disorder

In May 2013, the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be released. For the first time, this manual will include Internet Use Disorder, which is described as a preoccupation with Internet gaming and withdrawal symptoms when the Internet is taken away.  Twitter, Facebook, Smartphones and Other Drugs

The Digital Diet

The Digital Diet: The 4-Step Plan to Break Your Tech Addiction and Regain Balance in Your Life by Daniel Sieberg is  a 4 step – 28-day plan.  Sieberg, a contributor to ABC, BBC and MSNBC, describes himself as a recovering addict of online gaming (World of Warcraft), social networks (Facebook, Twitter), “CrackBerry” (BlackBerry), iPhone, and so many more distracting endeavors.

Overcoming Digital Overwhelm

Our digital challenge can make us feel frustrated, guilty, and angry at ourselves.  But there’s another way to look at the test.  It’s an excellent opportunity to get to know and master the habits of your mind.  And that’s how you can find freedom in the digital realm and every other arena of your life too.  A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Digital Overwhelm

Digital Detox Holidays

According to the WTM Global Trends Report 2012 more hotels are offering ‘digital detox’ holidays to help stressed consumers to relax and unwind, without texts and emails.  WTM news: is no-tech the new hi-tech?

Related post: Blogging and Cell Phone Addiction

34 thoughts on “Nomophobia: Disconnect and Detox

  1. I confess that I am on the ‘Net often enough. But then I don’t have a tv.
    Do I get anxious if my phone is not around me? No. Not when I am in the city.

    I’m amazed to see people talking on their cell phone @6:30 am. These are people of all ages. Are they phoning long distance or what? I can’t believe that a teen would be doing this…a parent, their friend (most of my friends at that age were still struggling to get up from bed/asleep!), or???

    • @Jean
      Calls a 6:30 AM – that’s mind boggling. There is no one that I would ever call at 6:30 AM, unless we are talking about an emergency.

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  3. I’d heard the term “addictive personality,” but never dreamed it might apply to me.

    However, I’ve played some computer games– the kind where you have to work your way thru one level to get to the next without being killed by bad guys– and I was shocked at how obsessed I became. Used to lie awake at night, trying to figure out how to get up on ledges, get down corridors without being killed, and many more absurdities.

    It might be me, it might be the nature of online gaming itself, maybe both– but I’m definitely a believer in “computer addiction” in general, and I have no difficulty in believing it extends to things like mobile phones (thankfully, I don’t have one).

    Fascinating post– thanks, TT.

    • Hi there,
      I don’t think there’s much doubt about the additive aspect of computer games. What you described is what I have observed in others and what they have shared with me.

      Did you know that Extroverts can’t get enough Dopamine, and they require Adrenaline for their brains to create it? Conversely, Introverts are people who are over-sensitive to Dopamine, so too much external stimulation overdoses and exhausts them.

      What research reveals is that dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in controlling the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. It helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.

      It seems that indicates that Extroverts may be more prone to addiction than Introverts. However, even more research reveals all humans are at risk for developing addictive behaviors.

      I don’t have any interest in computer gaming. I have no need for a mobile phone. It I did have such an inclination and/or such a need then I’d be mindful about the addictive aspect.

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  5. Oh dear, I’m almost there, I wonder if I can get some prescribed medical sick leave for this condition.

    I’m wondering whether some of these ‘symptoms’ spawn from earlier pre-teachings. e.g. i’m a sucker for checking battery life, in combination with having a phone which i think is brilliant but battery heavy, reminds me of my ‘elder’ generation who constantly check the fuel tank of their car where 3/4 tank full means half empty and half full means running on low.

  6. Hi, I do have a cell phone and internet connetion, but i turn off the phone, when I want to,and have some time off the net, and this does not bother me!

  7. A very interesting post, TT. I don’t have nomophobia as I don’t use a mobile phone and when I did, it was for one very specific purpose – staying in touch with the solicitors when we moved out of one house and then into our next one! Our coverage here (out in the sticks, in Wales) is very sparse too, so not much use for one.

    However, I do have the internet equivalent of it and I was interested to read about it possibly changing the brain chemistry as I think it has changed mine. I’m partially housebound and am online far too much and have to take breaks from it. And when I do take breaks (the last one was just under two weeks – go me!) I find that my imagination starts working again, I become more creative, I am more alert. So the converse of that is that when I’m online my imagination and creativity are dulled and so am I.

    The ‘net has opened up great things – sources of information, entertainment, enjoyment, connections and communication but at what cost to our brains? I find that when I’m engaged with this media 24/7 (well not that much but you know what I mean), I no longer have the brain function to engage to the best of my ability because the very thing that should stimulate, has instead removed.

    • Dear Val,
      What an outstanding comment. Thank you so much for submitting it. These words of yours describe me too: “I’m partially housebound and am online far too much and have to take breaks from it.”

      I know for a fact that being wired dulls my creativity and imagination. I’m looking forward to taking a cyber-break as soon as I can. Currently hubby is extremely busy but when he has an opening we both plan to go offline for several days so we can reconnect with each other.

  8. On our recent visit to Tuscany we stayed in a place that had no telephone or internet connection. It did, however, have a television. While showing us the place upon arrival the owner spent several minutes trying to get the TV to work before we had to stop her, saying, “No importante!” Not sure if the grammar was right, but it was in keeping with the holiday mode we’ve had for years: no internet, no media of any kind including print, and cellphone in emergencies only. The media cut-off is very important to me, because I work in tv news and have an additional need to turn away from it all. If I don’t, I get the feeling I’m still at my desk.

    • Hi Ian,
      Working in TV News is stressful so I don’t doubt for a moment that you benefit from disconnecting and relaxing. The no telephone and no internet place you are describing in Tuscany sounds wonderful to me.

  9. Hmm, amazing, the symptoms of nomophobia. It’s just so wierd to me. Uh..I don’t have a cell phone at this time. I was offered one at work but declined.

    Yea, sure I am addicted…to cycling. :)

    Sure I like checking Internet for email and my blog traffic at least once a day for half an hr. at minimum.

    I do read instructions but sometimes long complicated instructions for me, it’s a lot faster to having a human being show me/instruct me.

    • Hi Jean,
      It’s weird to me as well. My husband and I choose not to have cell phones. As we aren’t emergency care workers we do not need to be available every moment of the day and we don’t want to be either. The land line plus a message machine works very well for our purposes. Hubby has an iPad too but you wouldn’t be likely to notice that as he doesn’t tend to use it in public spaces and places the way many do.

  10. In answer to the comment “Why turn off a mobile?” A phone, whether it is a landline or a mobile, is for my convenience, not the callers. My mobile is turned off except when I want to make a call, or I am expecting a call. The rest of the time I am driving, shopping, visiting, having dinner out, at a concert or some other activity where I don’t want to be or shouldn’t be talking to someone on a phone.

    • Hi Margie,
      Your cell phone use sounds sensible and sane. I’m thinking most cell phone users probably have the same habits but what I’m seeing is legions of people of all ages who don’t. What I’m experiencing is people who become hostile nasty if they are told they must use written instructions because there is no phone support. Bloggers are readers and writers, so where does that hostility come from, if not from an addiction?

  11. Interesting post. Sometimes it does seem there is/can be an addiction. but the other side can be argued too. Our methods of communication have changed with technology; not necessarily bad, it just is.

    • Hi there,
      I agree that there are always two sides and maybe even three or four or more to every issue. However, I am experiencing demanding “phone junkies” posting to the support forums and throwing hissy fits when they can’t get phone support.

      • Ah, definitely more difficult to be in customer service positions in any field these days, people expect immediate resolutions.

        I read another blog post this morning that focused on patience as a lost skill, so true and we all feel it. :)

  12. From the symptoms described above, I don’t think I have Nomophobia. In fact people get mad at me when I haven’t answered messages or texts for days. Sometimes I forget where my phone is and have to call it to find it. Sometimes it’s hanging out in the washing machine.

    There is this odd sort of impatience that people seem to have. The insistence that you be at the beck and call of your gadgets. That you MUST answer the phone if it rings, you MUST look at Facebook every bleeping day to not miss out on every excruciating detail of the lives of those you barely know.

    Or maybe I’m just a curmudgeon. My feeling is that if someone expects me to answer my phone whenever they call, no matter what, then THEY can pay my phone bill! Until then it’s mine and I can do or not do what ever the hell I want to do with it :)

    • Hi there,
      I’m with Mrs Fringe and you when it comes to your observations about impatience. It seems our reliance on technology leads to demands for instant gratification and a lack of civility.

      I am in control of when I am available and when I’m not. I will not surrender the power to direct my own life affairs to a cell phone and the unrealistic demands placed on me by those who are phone addicts.

      At is best mobile use results in convenience but it also leads to distraction from interruption and loss of privacy. At it’s worst, when combined with insecurity, impatience, boredom, dopamine craving and lack of self control, it can result in excessive and inappropriate use, and denial of addiction.

      If saying what you and I did makes us curmudgeons then I’m in good company.

    • Hi Kathy,
      I detect that you are a very clever lady who can read between the lines. This post could have been far more fascinating if I had allowed my inner critic to become unleashed. My husband read the draft my inner critic had prepared and howled with laughter. I reconsidered, chose to leave my inner critic in fetters, and put on my peaceful warrior hat and crafted a “straight-up” post rather than a rant.

  13. Morning tt,

    To be honest, I never sleep with my phone. I find it gets moody and demanding the next day, insisting that I respect it, and it never makes breakfast.

    Seriously, though, don’t you think this might well be a case of people simply inventing crackpot “conditions” in order to justify their existence, and their research grants?

    For example, I never turn my phone off. What on earth would be the point? There’s a technical term for a phone that’s turned off – a paperweight. You wouldn’t turn off your landline phone, so why turn off a mobile? Anyway, my smartphone, among much else, carries my medication schedule and reminders, so turning it off would be foolish as well as pointless. And like many people these days, I no longer wear a watch; I rely on my phone for the time.

    I confess, though, that I have multiple means of remaining connected to the Internet. As it plays such a large part in my life, it would be foolish to deliberately isolate myself from it.

    I also think that “nomophobia” is a complete crock. Who, for example, does NOT check their mobe’s battery life, especially a battery-hungry Android model? It’d be foolish not to. I also carry an emergency battery pack on the rare occasions I go out, to ensure I can remain connected for several days, should it ever be necessary(for those who don’t know me, no, I’m not a Web-obsessed geek, I’m terminally ill and 99% housebound – my life is online).

    Once I retire for the day, for example, I’m done. My PC is across the room, running 24/7 (I could be hospitalised at the drop of a hat these days – I need to be able to let people know what’s happening, not simply disappear and have them worrying), and I have my smartphone (just the one), and iPad next to me, though once I’m done for the day, they’re ignored and left on standby. Throughout the evening, though, my iPad is running alongside me, as it saves me having to get up to respond to Twitter or reply to mail** (even though my PC is just feet away, getting to it is more challenge than I need at that time of the day).

    **I feel that email is a more or less instantaneous medium, and letting mail sit for hours unanswered (except overnight), is bad manners but, hey, that’s just me.

    So yes, superficially, and without knowing the reasons why I behave as I do, some academic might saddle me with the “nomophobic” tag. But they’d be wrong, because you simply cannot isolate people, and their behaviour, from the reasons for that behaviour. To do so, simply to make a checklist work, is utterly facile.

    • Hi Ron,
      Please read what I posted above in comments so you know where I’m coming from. In a nutshell, an addict is an addict is an addict and there are legions of phone addicts.

      I’m working right now but I will return to express that I’m not a crackpot and I will not be abused by phone addicts. If one more phone-addicted f–ckwit attacks me for not providing phone support, then I won’t hesitate to describe what I think the best use for their phone is.

    • Hi Ron,
      I was too exhausted after work to expand my comment yesterday. Do let me say that I laughed when I read your first paragraph.

      I spend many hours most days answering support forum questions. Earlier this year support Staff posted the announcement below at the support link.

      March 22, 2012 announcement

      We believe everyone deserves fantastic support for their blog. Our backlog of requests has consistently grown as our team of 10 receives nearly 8,000 messages a week. To get caught up and give our customers the support they expect with paid upgrades, we made the difficult decision to limit the contact form to customers with upgrades. Once we are caught up we will work on bringing a high level of support back for everyone.

      If you are new to we have a step-by-step guide to all things WordPress. Our helpful forums remain open and you can find more details in our support documentation. There we have guides on getting started, writing your first post, and finding your readers.

      We will update this space as we work on bringing back outstanding, free support for everyone. Thank you.

      Since that time Volunteers answering support forum questions have been experiencing an minority of bloggers who demand phone support. When Volunteers tell them there is no phone support they become hostile and allege any business that doesn’t provide it isn’t “professional”.

      DUH … you acquired a free blog and have free hosting. Then you posted to a peer support forum expecting that management would be there to provide you with “professional” service? How realistic is that?

      Staff tend to pacify these people by capitulating to their demands and doing that is consistent with the Happiness Engineer position they hold. However, it’s my opinion that any so-called blogger, who refuses to follow written instructions and demands phone service is an addict in a state of denial.

  14. Apparently there is a book out on the impact electronic communications have had on human life. Apart from creating what I call “the great disconnect,” this book delves into why we have allowed it to replace “real” communication, face time, etc. Awaiting the title from a friend who couldn’t recall it but it’s fairly recent, her son is reading it. Detox is right. Oh the good old days of answering machines. Good piece!

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