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Separation Anxiety…From Your Smartphone

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

It has been my observation that there are people who are constantly looking at their smartphone. Where did I make this observation? Within my family. It is extremely upsetting when a family member brings their smartphone to the dinner table and constantly interrupts the flow of conversation by looking at text messages answering those messages and taking phone calls. In fact I have experienced visiting relatives walking through the door while talking to someone on the phone. Then, just as I’m about to say “Hi,” they get another call. I find this maddening when it happens and it happens often. I am not alone with this complaint.

A whole new category of addiction has been established and it’s called Nomophobia, or the fear of being separated from your smart or cell phone. One of the major symptoms of this phobia is to feel compelled to constantly check the phone for text and email messages. Then too, there is a need to be available for any phone calls. In the event that someone misplaces or loses their phone , real anxiety and panic set in. There is now an app that signals where the phone is if it is misplaced. Among the other symptoms are physiological symptoms such as sweating, shaking, rapid heart rate, stomach in knots, and rapid, shallow breathing. Thoughts may race and people might act irrationally.

In addition, this addiction to the cell phone interferes with face to face interactions with other people. That upsets relationships because the user is constantly distracted by the phone while ignoring family and friends. This is a problem in both High school and College classes because students lose their concentration by checking their messages rather than paying attention.

Their are now treatment centers that treat Nomophobia. However if you recognize the symptoms in your self there are self help things you can do. For example, do not take the phone to the dinner table. Turn the phone off and keep it off as long as possible. Fight the temptation to check messages. The world survived before the invention of this technology and will continue to survive. People can wait to hear from you. Some addicted people rationalize “what if…someone needs me, etc.” of course this is typical
obsessive compulsive thinking. The way to handle this type of thinking is to not give in. People can and will reach you later. Also, ask someone to hold your phone and not give it back until some time later.

It seems that waiting has become a lost art. There is a lot to be said for delaying gratification. An important reason to is that good friends and family will not be aggravated with you.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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