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Nomophobic? It's treatable, start with putting the phone down

September 19, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • A man uses his mobile phone as he stands on the platform at a subway station in Seoul.
A man uses his mobile phone as he stands on the platform at a subway station… (Seong Joon Cho / Bloomberg )

Do you start to panic if your cellphone isn't nearby?

Does just the thought of losing your phone make your heart pound?

Do you keep an extra phone on hand, just in case your primary phone breaks?

Do you check your phone in the middle of the night?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, than you may suffer from nomophobia (no-mobile-phone-phobia) -- the fear of being without your phone. 

The good news is that you are not alone. The better news is that it may be treatable.

Psychologist Elizabeth Waterman has started to address nomophobia in group therapy sessions she holds at the Morningside Recovery Center in California. 

"Nomophobic people have a fear of losing connection with the outside world," she said. "So we want them to understand that people won't forget you just because you are not reachable for a few days, and you won't miss out on everything. You can get information later and still live a happy life."

Waterman said there is a variety of reasons why people become attached to their phones. For some the phone is like a security blanket -- it makes them feel safer knowing they can call for help if they need it. For others, compulsively checking their phone relieves anxiety that they are missing something, or that there is no emergency they need to attend to.

Sound familiar?

Waterman's patients go for 10 days without access to their phones or other electronic devices when they first come to the center. To help them ease the anxiety around that, she teaches them distraction techniques like running their hands under water, playing with sand, or asking a friend how their day is going.

She said simply enduring the experience of living through 10 days without a phone, and seeing firsthand that the world won't end, is also useful.

For those who are not in an intense treatment situation, but still worry about their dependence on their phones, Waterman offers this advice: Turn it off.

"Try to make a commitment to yourself to turn it off for a certain amount of time each day," she said. "Don't bring it to the dinner table, turn it off when you are at the movies, don't bring it to the gym. We need family time and individual time."

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