At one point or another we have all frantically patted down our bodies in search of our trusty mobile phone. After searching every crevice of every pocket, the rising anxiety begins. ‘What if someone took it? Did I drop it? Have I left it at home?’ Fumbling through the bottom of our bags, an uncontrollable panic sets in. Flipping through folders, receipts and out-dated vouchers you start to feel flustered and agitated. You’re just about ready to re-trace your steps back through a crowded high street when you suddenly realise you stored your phone safely away in zip-up compartment of your bag. Phew! Serves you right for being organised.
We’ve all been there. Some of us have even searched for our phones in a flying panic when it was already in our hands, or next to our ears. If you love your phone, it’s perfectly natural that you should feel anxious when it’s out of sight and out of reach. With a population that is increasingly reliant on their phones to store personal information, keep in contact with loved ones and navigate new areas, it’s even more understandable why we work ourselves into a frenzy when we can’t find our handheld device. So, is it just irrational anxiety? Or is our (at least weekly) phone panic something more than just a forgetful flurry?
Nomophobia is said to be the phobia of the technological age. Originally coined after a YouGov study of the topic, studies have shown that around 54 per cent of us have experienced it at one point or another. Defined as a fear caused by losing your phone, running out of battery or having no network coverage – nomophobia is said to be that pit-of-your-stomach feeling when you suddenly realise you are out of mobile phone contact.
Despite the fact that the YouGov study found that 58% of men and 47% of women suffer from the sensation of nomophobia, it has been argued by critics that the word “phobia” is in fact being misused. It is now agreed that nomophobia is simply a normal anxiety. The majority of participants in the survey compared their nomophobia to “wedding day jitters” or a particularly nasty trip booked at the dentist. However, it has been found that our habitual reliance on our phones does not tick the boxes of ‘physical dependence’. We may feel like our device is an extension of our arm, but we show no signs of physical withdrawal symptoms…yet!
So, just in the same way that we are ‘hooked’ on Game of Thrones or ‘addicted’ to Ben & Jerry’s, our phone obsession is not yet considered to be a disorder. This makes nomophobia a specific, but perfectly normal sensation. Next time you are turning your bag upside down to try and find your phone, remind yourself to keep calm and to not let nomophobia get the best of you. However, if you really want peace of mind, perhaps a comprehensive mobile phone insurance policy will do the trick.