If being without your phone fills you with dread, you could have nomophobia

If you’re filled with terror at the prospect of being without your phone, you’re not alone.

A new poll has found that 42% of British adults identify with ‘nomophobia’ – the fear of being stuck without mobile phone connectivity.

According to psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, nomophobia is firstly about “dependency”, and secondly about “slight catastrophising”.

She said: “The key to having a healthier relationship with your phone is implementing values, boundaries and being self-aware when it comes to how we use our phones.”

Of the 2,000 people surveyed by Sky Mobile, 23% said they would rather hold a tarantula, 14% said they would prefer to go swimming with sharks, and 15% said sleeping in a haunted house would be better than being without 5G for an entire week.

According to the research, on average British people use their phone for 14 hours per week.

Here’s what you need to know about phone addiction – and how it might be impacting our wellbeing…

How can we spot the signs of nomophobia or phone addiction?

According to Papadopoulos, it’s quite simple.

“If you’re engaging and constantly checking to see where your phone is or if you’ve missed a call, [and are] worried, anxious about the possibility of missing out” – whether this is a social event or something work-related – you could have nomophobia, Papadopoulos suggested.

“We’re at our most peaceful when we feel like we have control over something.”

She encourages you to think about the first thing you look for when you wake up or walk out the door – if it’s your phone, it could be a sign of nomophobia.

“There’s also this thing where we think our phone is vibrating, and it’s not. That’s another sign too.”

Has social media made it worse?

It’s important to understand what our phones are to us.

“They’re no longer just phones, right? They are these digital prostheses, which we use to do everything from learn to work to connect,” said Papadopoulos.

“In the case of things like social media, we know that a big part of our desire to be on those apps is around that sense of not just belonging – which obviously they were originally intended for – but also that sense of missing out.

“So I think anything that you do, which relates to who you are, your expectations around your work, your personal life, are all going to feed into this.”

How might it be impacting our wellbeing?

“It all depends on what we are doing with our phones. If I’m sitting down doom scrolling, of course it will affect how I’m feeling. That’s not great,” she suggested.

“You want to own your technology instead of your technology owning you. Don’t catastrophise your mobile phones, because there are other things you can do to remain connected and it can lead to technology separation anxiety – the disproportionate sense of fear of being without your technology.

“When you are talking about any sort of addiction, if it gets in the way of your day-to-day life, you start having disproportionate reactions, struggle to engage with people in real life, your sleeping pattern is non-existent or not eating your dinner, those are the sorts of things you should look out for when it comes to nomophobia.

“For example, if a 12-year-old girl is posting a bunch of things on social media and sitting at her phone waiting for likes, that would be a sign of her phone affecting her mental health.”

But there are also positives to mobile phones, Papadopoulos adds. “I live really far away from my family. Sometimes I even cook with my mum, even though she lives in Cyprus,” she said.

How can we start to address it if we think we have a problem?

“Do basic things like keeping your phone in the same place to avoid using brain power constantly looking for where it is,” Papadopoulos advised.

“And don’t vilify or deify your mobile phone. It’s neither the best thing in your life or the worst. This will help you start to get a sense of control over those anxious thoughts.”

If you’re concerned that your behaviour might be addictive, see your GP for help.

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