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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Nomophobia, the (real) fear of missing out

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In just the past few years, the use of mobile phones has skyrocketed especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when were not allowed to leave our homes and physically interact with each other. We rely on our phones not just to call each other, but for information, entertainment and updates on our world. It is no surprise that a fear without our phones has emerged.


Presenting, nomophobia: a psychological condition caused when someone is separated from their phone.

RELATED: How to Make Friends As An Adult (without a phone)



What does nomophobia mean?

The condition derives its name from ‘NO MObile PhOne PhoBIA’. Multiple research studies show that this phobia is increasing worldwide. A 2019 study found that nearly 53% of British people who own mobile phones back in 2008, felt anxious without their phones, when it ran out of battery or they had no network coverage. The study also found that 9% of the group felt “strained” when their phones were switched off.


Multiple studies suggest that the prevalence of nomophobia was due to a smartphone addiction, but the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care argues that it is hard to link nomophobia and addiction.


The study further explains that this condition is very complex for physicians and families to understand, given that the clinical symptoms of nomophobia are similar to those of other disorders.



Common behavioral symptoms include:

  1. Constantly checking your phone, even if there are no notifications
  2. Feeling unable to go anywhere without your phone, even your house
  3. Becoming withdrawn from family and friends
  4. Detached from real life, focusing on online world
  5. Using your phone, even in inappropriate places (movie theaters, hospital, places of worship)


Here are emotional symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  1. Fear or worry when you think about not having your phone
  2. Anxiety or panic when you cant find your phone, or unable to use it for a while
  3. Irritation when you can’t check your phone
  4. Feeling stressed when you cannot update your online presence


This can turn into physical symptoms:

  1. Trouble breathing or feeling like you can’t catch your breath
  2. Shaking or trembling
  3. Disorientation
  4. Rapid heartbeat
  5. Stomach pains, nausea or vomiting
  6. Tightness in your chest
  7. Increased sweating
  8. Having a panic attack


RELATED: Anxiety vs Panic Attacks: How to help during times of distress


With the growing frequency of South Africa’s load-shedding schedules disrupting hours of screen time, for those with nomophobia, feelings of battery anxiety may kick in sooner than expected. Below are a few ways to save your battery life:

  • Know when your area will experience load-shedding
  • Turn off unnecessary notifications to allow your phone to ‘rest’
  • Invest in a power bank


RELATED: 40 Deep Conversation Starters to Bring You Closer



Whilst smartphone addiction and phone separation anxiety, along with nomophobia might seem made-up, for some individuals the anxiety that comes with being separated from their device is very real.

We highly encourage anyone struggling with their mental health to seek professional assistance, sooner rather than later.




This article was first published on 14 March 2022. It has been updated to reflect recent information.


Zahraa Schroeder
Zahraa Schroeder
Zahraa writes articles about climate change, world conflict and celebrities. She received her Diploma in Journalism and Media Studies from Damelin, and has garnered more than four years’ experience in the radio industry. She is short for no reason and loves talking to strangers on the bus.

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