1) You panic when your cellphone is out of sight.
2) The world officially comes to an end if you leave your phone at home!
3) You justify being on the phone all the time becasue you might miss an office email.
4) The only time you turn your phone off is during a flight.
5) You sleep with your phone on the side-table or worse, under your pillow.
Be honest, if you identify with any one of these and if you have more LOLs with Siri than your BFF, then welcome to the Smartphone Addiction Club.
I have always had a creepy attachment to my cell phone. I mean, how can anyone go around without their phone, it’s like walking without your head! So now it comes as no surprise that scientists in China, USA, UK and some European countries have declared it as a clinical disorder and given it an amusing name: nomophobia (fear of not having your mobile phone on you).
While nomophobia is still not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) yet; the psychological equivalent of Grey’s Anatomy, a few more long-standing, well-known phobias haven’t either. Right now it is listed in the appendix for further research. Doctors say, nomophobia is a real thing, as terrifying as acrophobia, the fear of heights (I can vouch for both), and if you think you have an issue, you probably do.
An online survey done by Iowa University on 2000 mobile phone users across the globe, found: around three-quarters of the population gets a mini meltdown when their phone goes missing, nearly 14% are desperately unhappy and 7% feel sick when they accidentally disconnect from the grid.
Are You Really Anxious or Just a Worrywart?
Is the mobile phone addiction really akin to drug and alcohol addiction? Or is it just casual talk, an attempt to medicalise everyday behaviour?
Doctors at the NIMHANS have studied MRI scans of mobile phone addicts and found smart phones trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine, the “feel good chemicals” in our brains, providing instant gratification just like addictive substances do.
What happens is that people suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma, and socially-challenging personalities self-medicate by reaching for things outside of themselves to manage their internal discomfort. Because technology plays such an integral part of our lives, smart phones easily become their object of choice.
The instant stimulation provided by being connected to the internet leads to the release of dopamine, a chemical central to the brain’s reward circuitry.
–Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare
Over the last five years, Dr Parikh has seen a three fold increase in mobile addiction cases in the 12-40 age group. The Uday Foundation in Delhi and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru, recognise it has a psychiatric disorder and have clinics to treat cell phone addicts.
Dr Samir Parikh has treated children as young as seven and eight glued to their black screens for hours. Besides the severe health hazards of radiation, it causes huge behavioural problems in a growing child who can feel adrift and unable to connect to others without it.
So how are cell phone addicts treated? Are they admitted to some rehab and stripped of all the gadgets they own like in the case of alcohol or drug abuse?
Electronics are an important part of our lives. Because you are going to leave the clinic with your cell phone, so we try and mimic the real world and teach patients to focus on learning coping skills to keep themselves from obsessively checking their devices – such as running their hands under water when they feel a compulsion or engaging in a face-to-face conversation.
–Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, Clinical Psychologist, NIMHANS
Smart Phones: The Ultimate Frenemies
So deal with them the same way you’d deal with a friend who doesn’t always serve your best interests at heart: by setting firm boundaries, exhibiting patience, and not letting them make you forget what truly matters.
People across the world are going on digital detox, where they stay away from all social media websites for weeks or months. But that’s hard, isn’t it? You can accomplish so much more with technology, but you also don’t want to be so reliant on it. And that’s okay – we’re all working on balance.
When my girlie gang goes out for dinner, we have one rule: no phones while we eat or the first person who takes it out pays. Easy peasy.
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