Mental Health

Nomophobia, the fear of no mobile phone, affects 89% of college students


A new study has found that “nomophobia” is now the overwhelming norm among college students. The definition of nomophobia is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

The study suggests that 89% of college students now have either moderate or severe nomophobia. In 2012, that figure was only 77%.

The research recently appeared in an online supplement of the journal Sleep.

Nomophobia and sleep problems  

Nomophobia was significantly related to more daytime sleepiness, and more behaviors associated with poor sleep quality.

“We found that college students who experience more ‘nomophobia’ were also more likely to experience sleepiness and poorer sleep hygiene, such as long naps and inconsistent bed and wake times,” said lead author Jennifer Peszka.

The study involved 327 university students whose average age was 20.

The participants completed several questionnaires. One of those, the Nomophobia Questionnaire, asks respondents how strongly they agree or disagree with a number of statements. Examples include “I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone” or “If I were to run out of credits or hit my monthly data limit, I would panic.”

Likewise, other questionnaires included the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the Sleep Hygiene Index.

Limiting phone time can actually worsen effects

Peszka said a common recommendation to improve sleep is to limit phone use before and during bedtime. But, she said, for people with nomophobia, this recommendation might only increase anxiety and further disrupt sleep.

And that calls for customized responses. “The recommendation to curtail bedtime phone use, which is meant to improve sleep and seems rather straightforward, might need adjustment or consideration for these individuals,” she said.

Treating phobias such as nomophobia

The various approaches to treating phobias form an increasingly popular topic in psychology. A phobia is an excessive and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that causes an individual to encounter avoidance.

Phobias can cause various bodily responses such as quicker heart rate, excessive sweating, rapid breathing, and high blood pressure, muscle tension and nausea. Phobias can influence individuals to avoid certain social situations.

Treatment of phobias normally involves either a psychological intervention or medication. Psychological therapies include behavior therapy, cognitive modification, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Behavior therapy may include systematic desensitization, in which patients are gradually and carefully exposed to the object/situation which causes phobic reactions.

Other therapies include rational-emotive behavioral therapy, which uses techniques of logic and confrontation; and cognitive therapy, involving the process of identifying and changing harmful thinking as well as methods of changing maladaptive behavior.

Study: Sleep, Sleepiness, and Sleep Hygiene Related to Nomophobia (No Mobile Phone Phobia)
Authors: J Peszka et al.
Published in: Sleep
Publication date: May 27, 2020
Photo: by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

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