Today, cell phones and smartphones are a way of life. Most of us use our phones for managing both our personal and work business—keeping track of our appointments, sharing videos or photos with friends and family, posting to Facebook or responding to posts, finding information on the web, or helping us get to that new restaurant in the next town over. A 2013 survey of 2,252 adults found that 91% used a cell phone. Many parents even give cell phones to their children so they can know where they are and what they are doing.
In June 2013, Consumer Reports estimated that 1.6 million American consumers were victims of smartphone theft in 2012. With so many of us relying on our cell phones, what happens when our phone is lost or damaged? It causes stress that can lead to emotional issues. Nomophobia, a term coined in 2008, is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact or being without one’s cell phone. In 2012, a poll conducted in England found that two-thirds of participants (1,000) experienced anxiety over being separated from their cell phones, even for short periods.
Separation anxiety is a condition wherein a child becomes fearful and nervous whenever he or she is away from the home or from his or her primary caretaker (provider of a sense of security). It is not uncommon for children with separation anxiety to develop physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, or even nausea, and the condition can interfere with the child’s ability to do normal activities such as going to school or even having a piano lesson. Separation anxiety is not typically diagnosed in adults, but when an individual loses his or her phone, many of these same symptoms are present. Should the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognize this issue?
Have you ever had a friend who lost a cell phone? I have, and the behavior they displayed was similar to the separation anxiety I have seen in children. The mind races, anxiety intensifies, and the person becomes fearful and nervous when the phone cannot be found. One friend of mine who lost her phone had to go to the emergency room to get checked out because she thought she was having a heart attack. She was told it was a panic attack.
This response to the loss of a cell phone can also resemble an addictive behavior. Although stress is part of our lives, many of us “need” our cell phones to help manage our stress. It is like we have to have our “fix” by checking Facebook, our email, or texting in order to feel connected to those around us. We begin to justify our outrageous reactions with the excuse that “everyone does it.”
In our society, there is pressure to get more done each day. We often find ourselves multitasking, which can have a negative physical effect on our bodies. We need something that can speed up our tasks and help us stay organized. Cell phones help solve that dilemma.
If your mental health is in jeopardy, what are you willing to sacrifice? Can you get done all you need to do and not rely on your cell phone to do it?
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