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nomophobia

noun [uncountable]

the fear of not having or not being able to use a mobile phone

nomophobic

adjective

nomophobe

noun [countable]

a person suffering from the fear of not having or not being able to use a mobile phone

'Fear of not having one's mobile phone within reach is now recognised as a psychological condition, nomophobia.'

The Australian 27th June 2012

'A recent study found 45% of Indian cell phone users in Mumbai between the ages of 18 to 30 to be severely nomophobic. All feel increased anxiety and can even suffer panic attacks when their batteries die or they run out of credit.'

About - News & Issues 14th July 2012

'Are You A Nomophobe? …Your heart rate accelerates, you feel short of breath, you reach quickly to your pocket and feel a wave of relief as you find your phone is still there.'

Inside Costa Rica 22nd February 2012

Have you ever broken out in a cold sweat when you couldn't find your mobile? Do you get uncharacteristically irritated when you unexpectedly find yourself in an area where, blast it, your mobile doesn't work? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you could number among the surprisingly high proportion of people identified as suffering from nomophobia.

a survey undertaken in early 2012 revealed that two-thirds of respondents professed symptoms of nomophobia

A common 21st century affliction, nomophobia is the fear of being out of mobile phone contact. Attacks of nomophobia can be triggered in various ways – maybe you forgot to pick up your mobile as you dashed out of the door, perhaps you left it at a friend's place, or, horror of horrors, you suddenly realize that you have no idea where it is. On top of that, there's always the possibility of running out of charge, having no credit, or being in one of the few places around the country where network coverage is erratic or non-existent. Unfortunately for members of an 'always-on' society, it seems there's a whole range of scenarios that could lead to an onslaught of nomophobia.

A survey undertaken in early 2012 by SecurEnvoy, a company specializing in mobile security services, revealed that two-thirds of respondents professed symptoms of nomophobia. This statistic suggests that nomophobia is on the increase, the figure only being just over 50 per cent in a similar study four years ago. Females, it seems, are more likely to be nomophobic than males, with 70 per cent of women worrying about lack of mobile contact as opposed to 61 per cent of men. Research suggests however, that men are more likely to possess more than one phone, which may explain why they tend to be less anxious!

If you're worried that you may be a sufferer yourself, then look out for the warning signs, which include obsessively checking for texts, emails or missed calls, re-charging your battery whenever possible, being incapable of switching your phone off, and even taking it with you when you go to the bathroom.

Which reminds me, think I may have switched mine to 'silent' so better just find it and check …

Background – nomophobia

The term nomophobia first appeared in 2008 in the context of a study commissioned by UK market research organisation YouGov, which set out to examine the anxieties suffered by a sample of over 2000 British mobile phone users. Immediately seized upon by the media, the word is a catchy contraction of the expression no mobile (phone) phobia, and although mobiles are routinely referred to as cell phones in American English, evidence suggests that nomophobia has caught on as a description of the condition in the US and other countries too. Following the model of many other phobias, there's an adjectival derivative nomophobic, which can also be used as a countable noun to describe sufferers, alternatively known as nomophobes.

First attested in the late 18th century, phobia is used both independently and as a suffix to describe an irrational anxiety about something, and originates from Greek phobos meaning 'fear'. Its use as a suffix is particularly productive, and often pops up in creative coinages, sometimes linked to proper nouns. A notable example which bubbled under in 2008, and which seems likely to pop up again in the context of the forthcoming presidential election, is Baracknophobia, used to describe negative and/or racist feelings towards Barack Obama.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 17th September 2012.

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