Nomophobia is a proposed name for the phobia of being out of cellular phone contact. The growing dependence on mobile phones is making most of us nomophobic, and recently published WHO Report has identified it as a ‘disorder’
Electronic devices such as mobile phone, computer, tablet, and other high-tech devices have become a staple in everyday living around the world. They have turned out as a best friend for many of us regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, career, and economic status. On the other hand, these devices are playing a vital role in causing behavioural addiction to an individual. Scientifically, such mobile phone addiction is characterised as “mobile phone mania,” a state of socio-psychological illness, and it is clinically referred to as “nomophobia”.
Cell phone mania is due to over usage of smartphone, increasing number of cell phone models, multimedia
facility, and services. As on today, a total number of cellular subscriptions has been reached about the 7 billion, which is almost closer to the population of the earth. People feel anxious when they get disconnected from mobile phone and suffer “extreme tech anxiety.” In some countries, the number of cell phone connections has exceeded the total population. In India, 77 per cent of its population uses cell phones far ahead of its literacy rate.
The mobile phone users feel incomplete without a cell phone. People use mobile even during eating, walking, listening, driving etc. Mobile usage while driving is six times more dangerous than driving with alcohol drinks. Many psychologists have stated that an over usage of the cell phone has to be considered as “addiction” similar to addiction to cigarette smoking and alcohol drinking and more dangerous than any other addiction.
Excessive screen indulgence is leading to a major psychological and psychiatric problem of screen dependency disorder (SDD), especially among children. The disorder is due to excessive use of social media, dependency and a compulsive urge to attend to screen activities like video games, watching videos during day/night. SDD is an uncontrollable need and habit to indulge in social media activities. Video games, TV shows, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, cartoons besides pornography are some of the sites children are hooked to. At times children may pose as adults and watch content inappropriate for their age.
Defining Cell Phone Addiction
As a relatively new target of addiction, smartphone use does not easily fit into the standard classifications of impulse disorders provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which does separate behavioral addictions from substance addictions. Behavioral excesses related to video games, exercise, food, shopping, work, and the Internet in general (and online sex and gambling in particular) have all shown indications of addictive behavior, but only online gambling has been classified as such by the DSM-5.
Parents themselves are sometimes responsible for SDD in their children as they hand over their smartphones to the toddlers as barter for finishing meal, keeping them calm and busy or rewarding for completing homework. Selfie culture has added fuel to the fire. Children also imitate their parents as the parents also remain busy with their glitzy gadgets.
Initially, a cell phone was considered useful to control the distance in communication and relationship and to deal with solitude and isolation. But the mobile phone functions are quite contradictory, extremely adverse, and causing socio-psychological illness. The radio frequency emitted by mobile phones is 1000 times more than those of base stations, thus has adverse health effects.
The over usage of mobile phones has steered us into psychological illness such as impatience, insecurity, low self-confidence, mood fluctuations, sleep disturbances, insomnia, neck pain and rigidity, dry eyes, computer vision syndrome, weakness of thumb and wrist, tenosynovitis, nomophobia, delusions, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. Also, there are exclusive mobile phone addiction disorders like Textiety, i.e. feeling anxiety on not receiving or sending a message, Ringxiety where an individual believes that he or she had heard cell phone ring, but there was no such event and Communifaking, i.e. an act of pretending to be involved in calling or messaging to avoid real conversations.
The mobile phone addiction can lead to consequences as dangerous as those caused by alcohols or narcotic drugs. A study revealed that an average college student uses a cell phone nine h/day that is longer than the duration of their sleep. There is a significant relationship between mobile phone addiction and socio-psychological dimensions such as loneliness, boredom, egoism, and self-independence. Mobile addiction behaviour in students has shown an absolute relation to depressive disorders, obsessive disorders, interpersonal sensitivity and habitual behaviour.
According to Dr David Green Field, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, mobile addiction (or nomophobia) involves deregulation of dopamine (a neurotransmitter of the brain) as that of other addiction disorders. American Psychiatric Association stated that smartphone addiction is often driven by “Internet Use Disorder” (IUD). The person would experience “preoccupation” with the internet or a dependence syndrome (abuse or addiction) and then suffer from withdrawal symptoms, which are same to a person who is addicted to narcotic drugs such as cocaine, morphine and has compromised dopamine function in the brain.
This syndrome is more predominant among teenagers and has already invaded the population, especially in the age group between 15 and 40 years. The over usage of the mobile phones is serving as a the most dangerous tool for socio-psychological issues in youth’s career. Such behavioural addiction on mobile phone usage may have a significant negative impact on placement, career and competency skills in teamwork and also in the personal lives of students.
So far, there has been no awareness programmes neither organised nor initiated on mobile phone addiction and its related illness. The ignorance of mobile addiction is due to unawareness about its hazards among users; lack of knowledge on the effect of radiation and electronic devices on mental health; lack of awareness programmes among parents and students; lack of attention among government/private health sectors and lack of global policy.
Initiation of awareness programmes is the need of the hour. It is the time for all health organisations of nations across the globe to initiate and implement preventive and curative interventions to control the rising global threat of mobile phone mania and screen dependency disorder (SDD). It is the right time to initiate preventive measures against mobile phone mania, among students and public without further delay in India. Everyone has to accept that relationship with mobile phones are risky for anyone, and it can steer us into “mobile phone mania” or
“nomophobia,” or “SDD” a psychological disorder which is equally dangerous as programme narcotic drug addictions.