You're probably familiar with the acute lurch of the stomach associated with the realisation that you've left the house without your phone. What you might not know is that there's a term for that. Nomophobia, a contraction of no-mobile phobia, is the fear of being without your mobile phone — and it's far deeper and more widespread than you might guess. So here's how to know if you have nomophobia, and how to establish a healthier relationship with your phone if you do.
According to the Telegraph, 54 per cent of British people fear being without their phone (or being unable to use it, for instance if it runs out of battery or has no signal). Brits with nomophobia feel similar levels of anxiety when separated from their phone as they would on their wedding day, or before a trip to the dentist, Psychology Today reports. And social media followers and blog readers of the Cambridge Dictionary identified so strongly with nomophobia, they voted it as the dictionary's word of the year.
According to Dr. Kim Ki Joon of the City University of Hong Kong, author of a study into phone separation anxiety, you share a closer bond with your phone than you might realise. "The findings of our study suggest that users perceive smartphones as their extended selves and get attached to the devices," Dr. Kim said, as the Guardian reports. "People experience feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness when separated from their phones."
Dr. Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, meanwhile, told the newspaper that nomophobia is a result of the centrality of phones to our daily lives. "We are talking about an internet-connected device that allows people to deal with lots of aspects of their lives," Dr. Griffiths said. "You would have to surgically remove a phone from a teenager because their whole life is ingrained in this device."
So how can you tell if you have nomophobia? Conveniently, as CNN reports, there's an online questionnaire. It asks users to rate how strongly they agree with various statements, such as, "I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone," and "If I did not have my smartphone with me, I would feel weird because I would not know what to do." If you score between 21 and 60, you've probably got a mild case of nomophobia; if you score between 61 and 99, you're likely to be pretty dependent on your phone. A score over 100 suggests you experience severe anxiety without your phone.
There are, fortunately, ways to tackle nomophobia. If you suspect you might be addicted to your phone — if it's the most important thing in your life, Dr. Griffiths says, or it's compromising your personal or work life — it's worth speaking to your GP, who might direct you to a specialist addiction service. But if it's not quite as all-consuming as that? The Guardian recommends reducing your dependency on your phone by deliberately turning it off for periods of time, or leaving it at home when you go out. Psychology Today suggests you attempt to balance the time you spend on your phone with time spent around other people — and don't sleep with your phone in your bed. Tricky, undoubtedly — but hopefully, it's doable.