Nomophobia: The Fear of Being Without a Mobile Device
Wed, April 21, 2021

Nomophobia: The Fear of Being Without a Mobile Device


Mobile phones are great communication devices and make our life easier. In case of an emergency, having a mobile phone can allow us to reach quickly and even save lives. They also act as a personal organizer, social network tool, calendar, alarm clock, mobile bank, and an online shopping tool. Although they are, without a doubt beneficial technology, overreliance on the digital system can lead to behavioral addiction. There’s even a term to describe the fear of being beyond mobile contact or the lack of access to a mobile phone. It’s called nomophobia, an abbreviated form of “no-mobile-phone phobia.”

Sleep hygiene related to nomophobia

A new study has even found that nomophobia is extremely common among college students and is linked with poor sleep health, reports Medical Xpress. Jennifer Peszka, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and colleagues found that college students who experienced more nomophobia were likewise more likely to have poorer sleep hygiene or experience daytime sleepiness. Peszka said she was surprised by the high prevalence of nomophobia among their participants despite her anticipating that it would be common among them.

To come up with such findings, the team involved 327 university students with a mean age of 19.7 years. The authors recruited these participants from introductory psychology courses. The participants then completed questions, including the Sleep Hygiene Index, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and the Nomophobia Questionnaire. Their demographic information was also obtained. The lead author said that since their study suggests a link between poorer sleep and nomophobia, it would be interesting to know what other implications there would be if nomophobia severity will continue to increase.

The team also found that 89.4% of the participants had a moderate or severe nomophobia. So, their suggestion is to limit bedtime phone use so that it would improve the sleep pattern of the students. But since doing so would seem rather straightforward, they may need some consideration or adjustment.

Previously, Verywellmind published that the fear of missing out on something is probably what leads so many people to report that they would respond to a text or call even if they are in the middle of something else. A 2008 study commissioned by the UK Postal Office involving more than 2,100 adults shows that nomophobia is characterized by feelings of anxiety when people lose their phone, they have no signal, or it runs out of battery life.

It found that nomophobia can be so powerful that people prefer not to turn off their phones even during times that they don’t need to use their devices or at night. When asked by UK researchers why they won’t turn off their phones, the majority (55%) answered they need to keep in touch with their friends or family, 9% said turning off their phones made them anxious, and 10% said they needed to be contactable for work reasons.

The invisible addiction

In 2014, authors James Robert from Baylor University Hankamer School of Business and team also referred to it as the “invisible” addiction among male and female college students. Their study, which appeared in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions, highlights that cellphones are quickly replacing desktop computers or laptops as the preferred method of accessing the internet. This led to an increasing reliance on cellphones among young adults and college students but could serve as a warning that the habit may lead to addiction, the authors added. Robert and team said that a cellphone is a paradox technology as it can be freeing but oppressing at the same time.

The average number of minutes per day engaging in cellphone activities

They also found that college students spend as much as nine hours per day on their phones. An average 94.6 minutes per day is spent texting, 48.5 minutes on emails, 33.1 minutes for calls, 10.1 minutes banking, 18.9 minutes playing games, 38.6 minutes on Facebook, and 16.8 using Instagram, among others.

In a more recent survey, Pew Research Center shares that mobile technology has spread rapidly around the globe. Today, more than 5 billion people have mobile devices and half of these are smartphones. Smartphone ownership varies widely by country too. South Korea ranks in the top in terms of smartphone ownership as 95% of adults report owning a smartphone and only 5% said mobile phone is not a smartphone. Other advanced economies mentioned in terms of smartphone ownership are Israel (88%), Netherlands (87%), Sweden (86%), Australia (81%), US (81%), and Spain (80%).



Nomophobia: symptoms

Although mental health experts have not yet decided on the formal diagnostic criteria for nomophobia, they generally agree that it presents a concern to people’s mental health. Some even suggested that it represents a type of phone dependence. The possible emotional symptoms of nomophobia include (1) panic, fear, or worry when you think about not being able to use your phone or not having your phone, (2) agitation and anxiousness if you have to put it down or know that you won’t be able to use it for a while, (3) anxiety, stress, or irritation when you can’t check your phone, and (4) anxiety or panic if you briefly can’t find your phone.

As to the physical symptoms of nomophobia, it includes trouble breathing normally, shaking or trembling, increased sweating, feeling disoriented, dizzy, or faint, and tightness in your chest. To avoid these feelings of distress, you may do everything to make sure you can use your phone. So, you may take it to the bathroom, in bed, or even in the shower, spend several hours using your phone, and check it constantly to make sure that you have not missed a notification, according to Healthline.



Nomophobia is a modern phobia. Experts believe that it most likely started because of people’s resilience to technology and concern about what may happen if we could not access the needed information.  Several factors contribute to such fear, including fear of isolation.

Lifestyle changes and treatment can help people check their phones less. For instance, there’s a need to balance in-person time and screen time every week. This means that for every hour invested in front of a screen, one should also invest in human contact.