The term nomophobia comes from the contraction of "no mobile phobia". In other words, the fear of not having your smartphone to hand and of being cut off from its functions. Losing it, breaking it, having it stolen, running out of battery...
It mainly affects teenagers and the under-25s, but not only. It also affects employees who are anxious about their professional performance and feel obliged to be constantly contactable in the course of their work. This is despite an official right to disconnect. But they just can't manage it. They can't help it.
How do you become aware that you suffer from nomophobia?
In the psychological counselling we provide at Stimulus, clients rarely call about problems related to smartphone addiction. In fact, it is rare for sufferers to complain about it. For them, it's of little importance because the mobile phone is part of everyday life.
They tend to contact us because they're having trouble sleeping or because their relationships are strained. But as the conversation progresses, we realise that it's due to a mobile phone addiction. When we ask them how they fall asleep, we discover that the phone is used to watch series, play games or surf the net. They may also admit that those around them criticise them for being absent, in their own bubble, constantly glued to their phone, which damages the relationship.
Others tell us that they are anxious or depressed and use their smartphone to fill a void, pass the time and occupy their minds. They use it like a cuddly toy, an anxiolytic, to feel soothed. It's an object that's always there and never seems to disappoint, unlike those around them.
These people do not make the link with the development of an addiction. They don't realise that the opposite effect is occurring: it creates a negative impact, a mental overload and an addiction.
If you experience real panic or anxiety when you switch off your mobile phone, you can at least say that you use it excessively.
A questionnaire developed by researchers at the University of Iowa can be used to determine whether you suffer from nomophobia, which is neither a recognised pathology nor an official medical term. There is also no truly validated therapy.
The first step is therefore to understand that you are suffering from nomophobia...
What can you do to overcome this addiction?
Becoming aware of your addiction to mobile phones is an essential step. However, it is complicated to kick this addiction alone, as we are constantly exposed to the stimuli of mobile phones, both in our professional and personal lives.
It's essential to learn to live with this addiction, because it's impossible to do without it unless you isolate yourself from the world. Taking part in a digital detox course can be beneficial, as can taking a break during the holidays, practising meditation exercises, meeting others in person, and self-regulating by using the block function when the predefined time is reached...
But it can be vital to be accompanied by a psychologist, as this allows you to really think about the reasons for your addiction:
What made us tip over the edge?
What's behind this behaviour?
All the more so since other addictions can sometimes be added to that of the mobile phone, given that it has several functions: online games, impulse buying, social networking, etc.
Research has shown that receiving a 'Like' after a publication activates the reward circuits, a phenomenon also present, at a different level, in drug addiction.
Excessive mobile phone use also has an impact on your physical health. Among musculoskeletal problems, 'text neck' causes chronic pain in the neck due to an incorrect tilt of the head caused by prolonged use of the smartphone.
Not to mention the fact that notifications are also interruptions to your working day. And the effects are not negligible either: it will take you several minutes each time to regain the same level of concentration.
To maintain your concentration, here are a few tips:
- Organise your working day in sequences (one task after another),
- Try out the Pomodoro method (alternating sessions of intensive work with disconnected breaks to regenerate and regain mental acuity),
- Say no to multitasking, which is nothing more than attentional zapping,
- Put notifications on silent mode so that you can concentrate on the task in hand,
- Don't check your emails or messages continuously throughout the day.
Clinical psychologist with our employee assistance programme Stimulus Care Services.