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Psychologists try newer ways to counter Nomophobia as cell phone addiction fuels fear

Thursday November 9, 2017 12:28 PM, News Network

Cell Phone Addiction

A group of doctors and psychologists in Rio de Janeiro have setup a centre to take care of people suffering from nomophobia - the fear of not having a mobile phone, and help them return to the real world and overcome their addiction.

However Rio de Janeiro is not the only place where doctors and psychologists are trying newer ways to counter "nomophobia" as more and more people are reporting "cell phone addictions" from across the world.

Nomophobia occurs in situations when an individual experiences anxiety due to the fear of not having access to a mobile phone. The "over-connection syndrome" occurs when mobile phone use reduces the amount of face-to-face interactions thereby interfering significantly with an individual’s social and family interactions.

The term "techno-stress" is another way to describe an individual who avoids face-to-face interactions by engaging in isolation including psychological mood disorders such as depression.

“One of my patients was a student and was suffering from phone addiction during his/her board exams. The patient used to fight with the parents whenever they used to take the phone away. Eventually, the patient stopped talking to the parents. During the treatment, the patient suffered withdrawal anxiety and depression. Nomophobia is a rampant lifestyle disease on the rise", Dr. Gorav Gupta, psychiatrist, is quoted by HT in a recent report.

The term, an abbreviation for "no-mobile-phone phobia", was first coined during a 2008 study by the UK Post Office who commissioned YouGov, a UK-based research organization evaluating anxieties suffered by mobile phone users.

The study by Evening Standard found that nearly 53% of mobile phone users in Britain tend to be anxious when they "lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage".

The study, sampled 2,163 people, found that about 58% of men and 47% of women suffer from the phobia, and an additional 9% feel stressed when their mobile phones are off. 55% of those surveyed cited keeping in touch with friends or family as the main reason that they got anxious when they could not use their mobile phones.

The study compared stress levels induced by the average case of nomophobia to be on-par with those of "wedding day jitters" and trips to the dentist.

Another study found that out of 547 male, undergraduate students in Health Services, 23% of the students were classified as nomophobic, while an additional 64% were at risk of developing nomophobia. Of these students, approximately 77% checked their mobile phones 35 or more times a day.

More than one in two nomophobes never switch off their mobile phones. The study and subsequent coverage of the phobia resulted in two editorial columns authored by individuals who minimized their mobile phone use or chose not to own one at all. These authors appeared to treat the condition with light undertones of mockery, or outright disbelief and amusement.

Currently, scholarly accepted and empirically proven treatments are very limited due to its relatively new concept. However, promising treatments include cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and combined with pharmacological interventions. Treatments using tranylcypromine and clonazepam were successful in reducing the effects of nomophobia, according to Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.

Cognitive behavioral therapy seems to be effective by reinforcing autonomous behavior independent from technological influences, however, this form of treatment lacks randomized trails. Another possible treatment is "Reality Approach," or Reality therapy asking patient to focus behaviors away from cell phones.

In extreme or severe cases, neuropsychopharmacology may be advantageous, ranging from benzodiazepines to antidepressants in usual doses.

Patients were also successfully treated using tranylcypromine combined with clonazepam. However, it is important to note that these medications were designed to treat social anxiety disorder and not nomophobia directly, according to Computers in Human Behavior.

It may be rather difficult to treat nomophobia directly, but more plausible to investigate, identify, and treat any underlying mental disorders if any exist.

Some quick tips to counter "Nomophobia" include: Turn your phone off before sleeping and sleep uninterrupted, customise notifications in your phone. Constant notifications from various apps in your phone are distracting and delete apps that are not required.

Unnecessary apps are also a distraction, go old-school and wear a watch to check the time rather than your phone, establish phone free zones for yourself and take phone breaks while working and spend more time with friends and family rather than your phone and use your phone in a limited capacity when with them.

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