Ever had that feeling of dread when your phone’s battery dies or you can’t access your phone for a while? If that sounds like you, you might be suffering from phone separation anxiety.
Smartphones and smart devices have become such a big part of everyday life that it can be hard to imagine life without them. If you find your thoughts racing every time you’re forced to step away from your phone, it could be a sign that it’s time to set healthy boundaries and put some distance between you and your smart devices.
What Is Phone Separation Anxiety?
Phone separation anxiety, also known as nomophobia, is the fear of not having access to your smartphone. It’s a condition closely linked to smartphone addiction. Nomophobia is the shortened version of “no-mobile-phone-phobia.” The term rose to popularity after a 2008 survey by the United Kingdom Post Office found that almost half of all women and over half of all men become anxious when separated from their mobile phones.
A 2016 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that phone separation anxiety can have some serious impacts on your physical and mental health. The effects of phone separation anxiety can range from poor sleep quality to reduced performance at work or school, and it can even contribute to depression.
Although it’s a new phenomenon, nomophobia is real and can be tough to overcome. So, what can you do about it?
What Causes Phone Separation Anxiety?
Although smartphones have made people more connected than their ancestors could have dreamed, it’s also become more difficult to unplug than ever before.
A few years ago, smartphones were considered a luxury item; today, they are almost a necessity for everyday life, with notifications and alerts arriving from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Smartphones have become such an important part of work and personal life that it’s hard to imagine living life without them.
How can you start to limit your usage? Unlike using an app to quit smoking, another smartphone app probably isn’t the best way to get over phone separation anxiety.
It may seem virtually impossible to live without access to a smart device. Even if you’re willing to cut smartphones out of your social life, most jobs require on-the-go access to emails and notifications.
And being connected is important, especially when it comes to your loved ones. One of the biggest reasons that people might be affected by phone separation anxiety is because they feel like they can’t contact or are missing important updates from close family members.
What Are the Symptoms of Phone Separation Anxiety?
If you believe you might be suffering from phone separation anxiety, you can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you find it difficult to focus when you are away from your phone, even for short periods?
- Are you using your smartphone in places that you shouldn’t, like while driving?
- Are you struggling at work or school because your mind is constantly on your phone?
- Are you avoiding face-to-face contact in favor of digital communication?
It’s important to be aware of when technology stops being a tool that makes our lives easier and instead becomes a factor that increases our stress. If you find that your mind is constantly on your phone instead of on important daily tasks, it may be time to take a step back and think about what impact your smartphone is having on your life.
While an accurate diagnosis of phone separation anxiety can only be performed by a mental health professional, being honest with yourself about how smartphones and smart technology are affecting your life is the first step in getting help.
How Can You Deal With Phone Separation Anxiety?
Because phone separation anxiety is such a new phenomenon, doctors are still learning the best ways to treat it. Some medical professionals recommend using cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT to help users learn to put some much-needed space between them and their smart devices.
CBT is a kind of talk therapy that tries to find the underlying causes of our actions. It’s used to treat phone separation anxiety by targeting the thoughts that lead to phone separation anxiety and then attempting to change those to more positive, productive thoughts.
One of the most important steps in overcoming phone separation anxiety is to set healthy boundaries between you and your smart devices, including limiting usage at home and staying off your phone while working.
Are you struggling to remember the last time you had a family dinner without using your phone? How long has it been since you’ve fallen asleep without checking your social feeds one last time? Slowly reclaiming parts of your life from your smartphone’s grip can help you feel less anxious when you can’t use your phone. And finding the right strategies to curb your screen time can help you form a healthier relationship with your smart devices.
It’s important to know that phone separation anxiety alone may not be the end of the story. Having increased feelings of worry or anxiety when separated from your phone may be part of a larger and more complex anxiety disorder. For more severe cases of phone separation anxiety, your doctor might prescribe medications or other treatment methods.
You Can Overcome Phone Separation Anxiety
Even though cell phones have been around for a while, smartphones are still relatively new additions to most people’s lives. As smartphones and mobile technology continue to become more and more intertwined with everyday life, the challenge of overcoming phone separation anxiety, or nomophobia, might be here to stay.
Although it might seem impossible at first, you can conquer phone separation anxiety. Learning to set healthy boundaries between your digital life and your real life means gaining more peace of mind during those times when you can’t reach for your phone.
If you feel that you are suffering from phone separation anxiety or another technology-related stress disorder, consider talking to your doctor or a mental health specialist.
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