Is your phone within arms length away right now? You just might be a nomophobe

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Can you imagine being without your smartphone for any amount of time? Do you get easily annoyed when your smartphone isn’t nearby, or in your hand? If this describes you, you could be at risk of nomophobia.

Picture this: When is the last time you checked Facebook, answered email, sent a text, or made a call on your phone? How many times a day have you mindlessly scrolled through Twitter? How much have you stressed over the strength of the Wi-Fi you’re using?

Sound familiar? Researchers have a word for people like you: nomophobia. Yes, you read that right — the fear of being without your phone is called nomo(bile)-phobia (get it?). Iowa State University recently released a questionnaire which can help determine whether you’re at risk. (More on that below.) 

Research was done in two phases in order to understand the theoretical concept of nomophobia. Four dimensions of nomophobia were identified in the first phase: not being able to communicate, losing connectedness, not being able to access information, and giving up convenience.

The growing dependency on mobile phones — especially smartphones — isn’t surprising: 64 percent of American adults have a smartphone, according to studies by the Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center. But the U.S. isn’t the only country where more than half of adults have a smartphone. 

Data: Pew Research Center (2014/2015)

When new technology becomes mainstream,  purported psychological and physical effects become topics of concern and discussion. Take phantom pocket vibration syndrome – the feeling that your phone is vibrating when it isn’t — as an example, or that microwave ovens would cause cancer if you stood in front of them, for an older tech reference. 

Looking at iPhone users, researchers at the University of Missouri found that mobile phone separation can have serious psychological and physiological effects, including poor performance on cognitive tests.


Researchers recently conducted a study in 20 elementary schools in South Korea, looking into factors that could be the cause for smartphone addiction. According to the study, there were two main causes: one, the characteristics of the person using the device; and two, the type of content they look at on their phones. Those with lower self-esteem and higher stress levels were more likely to be addicted to their smartphones. In terms of content, the researchers found that those who used their smartphones for social networking, playing games, and other forms of entertainment were more likely to have a smartphone addiction.

Skeptics say

Although there has been discussions and proposals to include nomophobia into The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an official book published by the American Psychiatric Association for assessing all recognized mental illnesses psychiatric diseases, some experts are asking people to understand that nomophobia (the fear of being without your phone) shouldn’t be confused with actual smartphone addiction. 

Are you nomophobic?

These questions were used by Iowa State University researchers to understand the severity of nomophobia in study participants: 

Participants were asked to respond to the following statements on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Total scores were calculated by adding the responses to each item. The higher scores corresponded to greater nomophobia severity.

  • I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone.
  • I would be annoyed if I could not look information up on my smartphone when I wanted to do so.
  • Being unable to get the news (e.g., happenings, weather, etc.) on my smartphone would make me nervous.
  • I would be annoyed if I could not use my smartphone and/or its capabilities when I wanted to do so.
  • Running out of battery in my smartphone would scare me.
  • If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.
  • If I did not have a data signal or could not connect to Wi-Fi, then I would constantly check to see if I had a signal or could find a Wi-Fi network.
  • If I could not use my smartphone, I would be afraid of getting stranded somewhere.
  • If I could not check my smartphone for a while, I would feel a desire to check it.

If I did not have my smartphone with me:

  • I would feel anxious because I could not instantly communicate with my family and/or friends.
  • I would be worried because my family and/or friends could not reach me.
  • I would feel nervous because I would not be able to receive text messages and calls.
  • I would be anxious because I could not keep in touch with my family and/or friends.
  • I would be nervous because I could not know if someone had tried to get a hold of me.
  • I would feel anxious because my constant connection to my family and friends would be broken.
  • I would be nervous because I would be disconnected from my online identity.
  • I would be uncomfortable because I could not stay up-to-date with social media and online networks.
  • I would feel awkward because I could not check my notifications for updates from my connections and online networks.
  • I would feel anxious because I could not check my email messages.
  • I would feel weird because I would not know what to do.