Addicted to your cell phone? You may have nomophobia

Addicted to your cell phone? You may have nomophobia

CREATED Feb 25, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - There’s a name for just about any fear, like chromophobia (fear of colors). Now, thanks to technology, another one: nomophobia. That’s no-mobile-phone phobia, fear of losing your cellular device. And more people suffer from it today than ever.

How many times do you check your cell phone?

“Probably about 50 times a day, I would say,” said University of Arizona student David Rizk.

 “Over 100, probably,” said Jordan Alford.

 And what do you use it for?

 “I use it everyday, probably every time I get a text. I look at it in class. The only time I don’t use it is in church,” said Peter Gonzales.

 A UA student nicknamed “Strawberry” responded, “to communicate and take nudie pictures of myself.”

Most people feel naked without their cellular phones, says a new study. According to SecurEnvoy, a digital password company, 66% of the 1,000 people surveyed are afraid of losing their phones. They suffer from nomophobia, as in no-mobile-phone phobia. Dr. Dennis Embry, a psychologist and scientist, pinpoints the reason why it’s on the rise.

 “We know this mechanism works because every time you push the little buttons, you actually get a hit of dopamine in the brain, which makes people want to press the buttons much more,” Embry explained.

Dopamine is the same reward chemical stimulated by sex and drugs. But with smartphones, Embry says Mother Nature never designed us to get that strong a reinforcement from an artificial device. And stopping yourself from calling, texting, playing games, accessing phone applications and other activities are tough addictions to curb.

“It’s very hard, just as gambling is hard, just like tobacco is very hard to stop, [especially] when you have such frequency or dopamine, or reward stimulation because of your own handiwork,” Embry said.

That handiwork can sometimes break phones and lead people to places like Blue Ridge Wireless. Robert Nissenbaum is the owner, who fixes customers’ phones after he reduces their anxiety.

“We had a 13-year-old who came in and we told her it’d be about half an hour to get her phone fixed. She left in utter tears, begging her mom not to leave the phone,” Nissenbaum said.

Age does play a role: People in the younger adult age group from 18 to 24 tend to the most nomophobic. According to a 2011 study by the Pew Research Center, they’re also the most avid texters, sending an average of 110 texts a day. Adult mobile users overall send an average of 40 messages a day.

However, some University of Arizona students told 9 On Your Side said they’re strapped to their smartphones for reasons other than texting as well.

“I think my relationships with other people would fail,” said Peter Gonzales. “Because I don’t have time to communicate with them.”

Social reasons aside, Nissenbaum said security is a valid concern. He said people should password-protect their phones and not keep it logged onto sites like Facebook, allowing a person to hijack your phone and post whatever they want in a matter of seconds.

But most people who suffer from nomophobia are usually more concerned with how disconnected they feel, rather the information on their phone.

“It’s very clear that it’s cutting into family time and that it’s harmful to us humans,” Embry said.

Embry said some solutions include recognizing you have a problem; declaring device-free zones, which forces you to keep phones out of the bedroom and away from the dining table; and challenge yourself to be without the cell phone for longer periods of time.

The study also found that women are more nomophobic than men, but men are also more likely to have two mobile phones – which could account for the difference.