How To Know If You Have Nomophobia


It was 2008, just after the iPhone was released, and Patrick O’Neill began noticing a curious new phenomenon amongst his friends. When out to dinner, he found he’d often have to request that they put down their phones. Sometimes, it felt like they spent all of their time out just staring at the screen.

O’Neill, who was working as a spokesperson for Britain’s postal service at the time, suggested the post conduct a survey that looked at how people felt about their phones. It concluded that more than half of the U.K. residents feared being without a phone. O’Neill coined a term, “nomophobia” — or “no mobile” phobia.

“People going to the loo with their mobile really freaked me,” O’Neill told me.

O’Neill became an activist of sorts, dedicating his free time to spreading awareness about nomophobia and eventually launching a website and Twitter account to serve as places for conversation.

“If someone has told you to put down your phone in the past week, you are probably suffering from nomophobia,” he said. “If more than one person has said that you need to put your phone down, you are definitely suffering from nomophobia. To me, it seems like common sense.”

In 2008, though, nomophobia was just a clever term to describe the increasing intrusions of technology in our lives. Since then, researchers have begun wondering whether it might really be real. Last year, a pair of Italian researchers made the first case for including nomophobia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychiatry.

“Nomophobia is different from smartphone addiction or other forms of cyberaddiction,” one of them, Nicola Bragazzi at the University of Genoa, told me via e-mail. “Technology is more pervasive than ever. The domain of technopathies is fostering —> Read More