is the fear of or anxiety caused by being without your phone.
The word is short for “NO MObile PHone PhoBIA”.
Around half of people suffer from nomophobia, according to one survey carried out by the UK Post Office in 2008.
The study also found that people experienced nomophobia when they had no network coverage or their phone was low on battery or credit.
Psychologists have developed a test for nomophobia: the fear of being without your phone.
The researchers found four aspects to nomophobia:
- not being able to communicate,
- losing connectedness,
- not being able to access information,
- and giving up convenience.
People in the study of nomophobia responded to the statements below on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).
You can add up your total score, by adding your responses to each item.
The higher the score, the more you ‘suffer’ from nomophobia.
Here are the nomophobia statements:
- 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.
Nomophobia, anxiety and depression
While people experience nomophobia without their phones or coverage, there is little evidence that normal phone usage causes anxiety.
Simply using a phone as a way of alleviating boredom is not linked to depression or anxiety.
However, being highly engaged with, or even ‘addicted’ to mobile phones is linked to elevated levels of anxiety and depression, research finds (Panova & Lleras, 2016).
People seem to use their phones as a kind of security blanket in anxiety-provoking situations.
While this is not necessarily a problem, the study also found that using mobile phones as an emotional coping mechanism was linked to depression and anxiety.
For the study, over 300 people were surveyed and asked questions about their phone and internet usage, their mental health and so on.
The questions included:
“Do you think that your academic or work performance has been negatively affected by your cellphone use?” and “Do you think that life without the Internet is boring, empty and sad?”
Professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the study, said:
“People who self-described as having really addictive style behaviors toward the Internet and cellphones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales.
However, [there was] no relationship between cellphone or Internet use and negative mental health outcomes among participants who used these technologies to escape from boredom.
Thus, the motivation for going online is an important factor in relating technology usage to depression and anxiety.”
In a follow-up study, the researchers tested the effect of a stressful situation on phone usage.
Professor Lleras explained that the phone sometimes acted as ‘comfort item’:
“Having access to a phone seemed to allow that group to resist or to be less sensitive to the stress manipulation.”
Just using your phone when bored won’t lead to anxiety or depression, Professor Lleras said:
“We shouldn’t be scared of people connecting online or talking on their phones.
The interaction with the device is not going to make you depressed if you are just using it when you are bored.
This should go toward soothing some of that public anxiety over new technology.”
The study was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior (Yildrim et al., 2015).