The anxiety you feel without your cell phone has a name

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We all have a certain level of attachment to our cell phones, but for some people, being without their phones or losing internet access can increase their anxiety levels beyond normal.

Nomophobia, short for “no mobile phone phobia,” is a term used to describe the anxiety a person experiences when they do not have access to their mobile phone.

“Nomophobes are those who show addiction to their mobile phone,” research published in BMC Psychiatry in July says.

Symptoms of nomophobia mirror those of addiction or other anxiety disorders and may include:

  • Anxiety
  • temptation
  • Fluid
  • Disorientation
  • Changes in breathing
  • Tachycardia, which is defined as a fast heartbeat

The causes and costs of nomophobia

Teenagers are most affected by nomophobia, according to research published in BMC Psychiatry, but any age group can struggle with it. A big reason why many people suffer from nomophobia comes from our reliance on our cell phones, says Michele Leno, clinical psychologist and host of the TV show, “Mind Matters with Dr. Michele.”

“We’re connected to our phones, and for many reasons. They’re our little computers. We use them for business. We use them to stay connected to family,” Leno tells CNBC Do It.

“When we can’t use them right away, we get worried because we think we’re missing out on something. We have this mindset that our phones allow us to be always connected to everything.”

Some people are more prone to developing nomophobia, says Blair Steel, a licensed clinical psychologist. Factors that may improve your chances of getting the condition faster are:

  • Anxiety in advance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Struggles with emotional regulation
  • Uncertain attachment styles
  • Lack of personal relationships

Once a person develops an unhealthy attachment to their cell phone, it can have a negative impact on several areas of their life, says Leno. Nomophobia can interfere with your ability to focus and distract you from accomplishing tasks, she said, including at work or school.

Plus, “being distracted all the time is very unhealthy for relationships,” Leno notes. “We are sacrificing the happiness and health that might exist [those] relationships because we care more about the phone.”

10 ways to fight nomophobia

Fortunately, it is not impossible to get rid of nomophobia. There are some things you can do to combat the condition once you know it’s affecting you.

Here are some tips from Leno and Steel for disconnecting from your phone:

  1. Allow yourself to relax without your phone during your downtime.
  2. Stay away from your phone on purpose for an hour at a time. Consider turning it off if that helps.
  3. Leave your phone at home or off to the side when you go to the store or attend an event.
  4. Use a watch to check the time, instead of relying on your phone for a clock.
  5. Use a calendar or planner to record important events.
  6. Find new hobbies that allow you to spend time away from your phone and unplug.
  7. Learn more about nomophobia to know the symptoms and triggers.
  8. Challenge your negative thoughts about being without your phone. Remember that everything will be fine if you put it away for a while.
  9. Use awareness through meditation and breathing exercises to deal with anxiety.
  10. In extreme cases, seek help from a mental health professional.

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