Nomophobia, or “NO MObile PHone PhoBIA” is a psychological group of symptoms in which a person experiences fear or anxiety about not having mobile phone connectivity.

While some people may dislike the idea of going without their phone for prolonged periods, others experience fear or anxiety about losing connectivity from their mobile phone. This is known as nomophobia.

Nomophobia is similar to other psychological conditions related to fears of certain things. It also shares a connection with other types of anxiety disorders, such as social phobia.

The following article defines and reviews what nomophobia is, possible causes, treatments, and more.

A person with nomophobia reaching for their phone that has fallen in the water.Share on Pinterest
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Nomophobia refers to a fear of not having mobile phone connectivity. It can cause panic or anxiety for the person experiencing it.

A 2019 article in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care mentions that several potential psychological conditions, such as social anxiety or panic disorder, may appear in a person before the development of nomophobia.

However, researchers also noted that it is still unclear if the disorder comes from an existing anxiety disorder or from a cell phone addiction.

Other researchers have expressed similar findings. In a 2016 study, researchers proposed that nomophobia may be less of a specific phobia or anxiety and more of an addiction. They proposed changing the name and making a classification called “smartphone addiction disorder.”

Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition does not recognize nomophobia as an actual disorder. However, researchers have argued for its inclusion for several years.

Symptoms of nomophobia are similar to other phobias and anxiety disorders. They can include:

  • anxiety
  • changes in breathing
  • trembling
  • sweating
  • agitation
  • disorientation
  • tachycardia, which is a fast heartbeat that can be irregular or regular

The exact cause of nomophobia is not fully understood.

Authors of a 2016 article noted that it developed due to the instant communication and instant gratification that smartphones provide. This can develop the addictive and compulsive behavior.

Others believe that an existing anxiety disorder or phobia may lead to the development of nomophobia.

In one 2020 article, researchers proposed that possible causes or predictors included:

  • obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior related to a smartphone
  • interpersonal sensitivity, which is the ability to assess the abilities and traits from nonverbal cues in others, and may include:
    • feelings of personal inferiority
    • social discomfort
  • the number of hours of smartphone use each day

Since nomophobia is not an officially recognized disorder and is relatively new, no treatments currently exist. Instead, a doctor or psychologist will likely recommend treatment options similar to treating other phobias.

The following are some possible options that a doctor may recommend if they suspect someone is living with nomophobia.

Behavioral therapies

A standard treatment approach for phobias includes a variety of potential behavioral therapies. These therapies help to address the underlying fears and beliefs surrounding the phobia.

In the case of nomophobia, the therapies could help address a person’s fear of losing their phone, not being connected, and the implications of not having access to their phone.

Some therapies for phobias include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: In this therapy, a person confronts the underlying thoughts that contribute to the phobia.
  • Desensitization, or exposure therapy: This approach involves gradually exposing a person to the thing they fear. In nomophobia, a doctor may expose a person to a lack of access to their phone.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy involves a therapist guiding a person through imagery to help them develop self-soothing techniques when confronted with not having access to a phone.

Learn more about relaxation techniques here.

Support groups

A person may be able to find a support group that helps to address the fear and anxiety associated with not having access to a phone.

They may wish to use this website to search for local support groups that help with different topics of interest.

Medications

A healthcare professional may prescribe medications such as clonazepam and tranylcypromine to help treat the symptoms of nomophobia, such as anxiety.

Mind, a British mental health charity, notes that the following medications can help treat phobias:

Self-care and practice

A person can practice self-care strategies on their own. They can take the following steps to manage their phobia:

  • learn more about what causes their phobia
  • progressive muscle relaxation, which involves focusing on relaxing muscles in groups
  • practicing different therapeutic breathing techniques

One 2021 study found that helping students improve their self-esteem provided effective therapy for nomophobia.

A person may also benefit from learning relaxation techniques. This therapy involves a combination of breathing techniques, exercises, and meditation techniques to help a person cope with not having a phone or other phobias.

A person should consider talking with a doctor if they believe they may be experiencing symptoms of nomophobia.

Parents or guardians should watch for symptoms of nomophobia and contact the child’s pediatrician if they notice signs appearing.

A doctor can provide a referral to a psychologist or other specialist to help diagnose and treat nomophobia.

Nomophobia refers to a group of symptoms in which a person experiences fear or anxiety regarding the loss of their smartphone or connectivity.

It is not officially recognized, but more researchers are petitioning for its inclusion as a type of psychological disorder.

Treatments are currently nonstandard and involve the use of medications, behavioral therapies, support groups, and self-care.