Fear of missing out — known by some as FoMO — is the feeling that someone else is having more fun or doing something better than you.
The fear is often aroused by seeing exciting posts on social media of what other people are up to.
The fear of missing out is linked to feelings of dissatisfaction and may lead to depression and anxiety.
Dr Darlene McLaughlin, a behavioural health specialist, says:
“FOMO is especially rampant in the millennial community because they see a peer achieving something they want, and somehow in their mind, that achievement means something is being ‘taken away’ from them.”
So it is important to fight back against it.
Try these three steps:
- Track negative thoughts: keeping a diary of negative thoughts can help you identify ones that are not helping you.
- Replace negative thoughts: ask yourself if the thoughts are reasonable and use milder words to describe your feelings.
- Challenge assumptions: for example, other people present their best, most exciting side on social media. This is not the whole truth of their lives.
Dr McLaughlin said:
“The problem with FOMO is the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward.
When you’re so tuned in to the ‘other,’ or the ‘better’ (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self.
This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world.”
FOMO may well be problematic, although it is not a mental health condition, Dr McLaughlin said:
“FOMO certainly instills anxiety and depression, but, we need to push back against framing this ‘fear of missing out’ as a mental health condition.
FOMO is an emotion — driven by thoughts — that can create the fear and anxiety which leads to a mental health diagnosis.
It’s a symptom of a larger problem at hand.”
However, FOMO can interact with other problems like social anxiety:
“Part of social anxiety is the fear of being judged by others or embarrassing oneself in social interactions.
FOMO is very damaging to someone suffering from this anxiety disorder because it fuels a lack of self-confidence and social avoidance.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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