Nomophobia: what is it? And how to fight it?

Nomophobia: what is it?  And how to fight it?

Without knowing it, you may be suffering from nomophobia, the fear of being deprived of your cell phone. How to explain it and how to avoid it? The answers with Thibaud Dumas, doctor in cognitive neuroscience.

Etymology, definition: What is nomophobia?

The term “nomophobia” was born from the contraction of the English expression “no mobile phone phobia” and translates into the phobia of being without one’s mobile phone or of not being able to use it. This fear may concern losing your phone, forgetting it or running out of battery and no longer being able to use it. The expression thus indicates a strong bond of attachment between the person and their mobile phone which can cause this fear. But according to Thibaud Dumas, doctor in cognitive neuroscience, trainer, speaker and author of “Digital Detox: get off your screens!” published by Mango, it is not really a phobia. “It is not a medical disorder, diagnosed, but rather a feeling, a form of anxiety in anticipation, at the idea that this absence of telephone could happen“, he explains.

What are the causes of nomophobia?

Nomophobia can affect a large part of the population but it mainly affects adolescents, young adults who were born and raised with mobile phones as well as dynamic executives who use smartphones regularly and extensively. This attachment to the object can be explained by the omnipresence of it in the daily lives of these people. The smartphone is used to make and receive calls, take photos, write notes, receive and send emails, view videos, access countless live information on various topics, access websites and their services, to find their way on the road, to communicate on social networks, to pay without a bank card… “A lot of data is stored on it, including private and essential things. There is an intimate relationship between the user and their smartphone. The consequences of losing a smartphone can be damaging and encourage this nomophobia. In my conferences, when I ask people to lend their smartphone to their neighbor, they are reluctant because they don’t want them to see what’s inside. It’s a bit like a diary that you don’t want to share or lose.“, notes Thibaud Dumas. Another reason mentioned by the expert: the deliberately addictive nature of social networks and games developed by all publishers. “These tools are created with the aim of encouraging frequent use and lead to a loss of control over the time spent on them. The brain is very hungry for information, so the smartphone offers it infinite access to it.“, adds the doctor in neuroscience. So many elements which promote addiction and the fear of losing this precious asset.

What are the symptoms and consequences of a person who is afraid of being separated from their phone? How do you know if you are nomophobic?

Several symptoms can indicate to a person that they are nomophobic.

Physical proximity to your phone: Nomophobia goes hand in hand with phone addiction. The nomophobe always has his phone on him or nearby.

Frequent use of the smartphone: The nomophobic person spends a lot of time every day on their smartphone: at home, on public transport, at work, in the waiting room… If they don’t have one conscience, those close to him sometimes point this out to him.

Inattention: Even when present in a room with people, family or friends, the nomophobe is absorbed by the content on their phone and participates less in the discussion in progress, is less attentive and not very focused…

The fear of forgetting it: Leaving home without your mobile phone is unimaginable for the nomophobe. He can make sure he has it on him several times before leaving a place. Imagining losing it can cause an unpleasant feeling, emptiness, unhappiness…

Fatigue and stress can also be felt.

Advice: How to avoid nomophobia or phone addiction?

Avoiding falling into nomophobia is like trying to fight against hyperconnection and mobile phone addiction. To do this, it is possible to watch the time spent on applications and then configure your mobile phone so that certain apps or functionalities stop as soon as the programmed time limit is reached. To limit temptations, it is also better to turn off notifications, set specific times to respond to emails, turn off mobile data and leave your phone outside your bedroom in the evening. All you need to do is use an alarm clock rather than your cell phone in the morning. Thibaud Dumas also suggests cutting off the phone from time to time for an hour, an afternoon, a day, a weekend…”We are often afraid of all the information we could lose or miss during this period of time, but this break also allows us to become aware of the benefits that disconnection can provide.“, underlines the expert. This means time regained, more room for sporting and cultural leisure activities, more quality exchanges with those around you, less stress…

Solutions and treatments: How to fight and stop nomophobia?

When nomophobia or smartphone addiction generates great anxiety, it is advisable to take it slowly. It’s not about cutting yourself off from your cell phone for a whole month overnight. “A goal that is too ambitious would be a source of stress and suffering. You have to be kind to yourself“, confirms Thibaud Dumas. If the disorder is too present or bothersome on a daily basis, it is preferable to seek help from a health professional (psychologist or psychiatrist). They will choose the therapy or treatment most appropriate for the patient. This can be cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) for example. Other problems often associated with this hyperconnection such as sleep disorders, physical and cognitive fatigue, can also be analyzed and managed by the specialist. Brief therapy is , in general, sufficient.”Studies show that anxiety levels can easily drop, in a few weeks, when you reduce your mobile phone consumption. This is good news which is encouraging“, concludes Thibaud Dumas. The hardest part is taking the plunge.