Is fear of your mobile not working an illness now?

Palms sweating, heart pounding, feeling nauseous and jittery? Yes, it’s possible you have stomach flu. But maybe you’re coming down with a more modern ailment: nomophobia. Or as it’s more commonly known, the fear of not being able to use your mobile phone (whether because of

poor reception, a dead battery, or because you don’t have it on your person at all times).

The name is short for “no mobile phone phobia”, and keen shinyshiny readers will remember we first covered the… erm… illness(?) back in 2012. But it was actually first coined way back in 2008 after a Post Office-commissioned survey found that 53% of mobile phone users never switched off their phones and 9% were anxious without it.

Now a new research paper from the University of Genoa proposes that the condition be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the definitive medical guide to mental illness diagnosis and treatment.

The paper cites the case study of a Brazilian man who needed to keep his mobile phone with him at all times for 15 years in order to feel safe. Although psychiatric treatment improved his panic disorder, it made no difference to his nomophobia, which lead author Nicola Luigi Bragazzi describes as “discomfort, anxiety, nervousness, or anguish caused by being out of contact with a mobile phone or computer”.

Of course, it’s really not about the technology at all, more the thought of being able to get hold of friends and family or them not being able to get hold of you, especially in an emergency. In the Post Office’s survey, 55% of people said this was their main reason for being anxious when they couldn’t use their phone. Researchers concluded that the average case of nomophobia was equal to nervousness about going to the dentist. Eeek. Maybe it should be in the book.

Image via Pedro Ribeiro Simoes’ Flickr.

Diane Shipley