What Is Nomophobia?

  • Author Name Master of Science - MSc, Science Communication, Imperial College London
  • Maha Ahmed MBBS, Intarnal Medicine and General Surgery, Cairo University, Egypt

What is a phobia? 

A phobia is more than just a feeling of fear. A person has a phobia of something, such as a place, situation, object, feeling or animal when they experience an intense feeling of fear and danger when thinking about it, seeing it, or being near it. As a result of their phobia, someone may choose to actively avoid something, even going as far as organising their day around avoiding that thing due to anxiety about it. 

A phobia can be simple, such as a phobia of spiders or heights. Or it can be complex, such as social phobia (social anxiety) and agoraphobia (fear of not being able to escape from a place). The more complex the phobia, the more it is likely to affect a person’s everyday life. So, some phobias can cause a lot of distress and require treatment. 

Phobias can cause a range of symptoms, as listed below: 

  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady or lightheaded
  • Feelings of nausea 
  • Increased sweating 
  • Fast heart rate or palpitations 
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Feeling shaky 
  • Stomach aches

What is Nomophobia? 

Nomophobia, or ‘No Mobile Phone Phobia’, is defined as the psychological condition of fear when detached from a mobile phone.1 The phobia was first introduced in 2008 after a YouGov report on over 2100 people investigated whether or not anxiety disorders occurred in the population due to excessive use of mobile phones.2 The report found that as much as 58% of male and 47% of female participants experienced anxiety when unable to use their phones. 

What are the symptoms of Nomophobia?

There are some key signs and symptoms you can look out for if you think you or someone you know is experiencing Nomophobia. These are as follows:1

  • Feelings of anxiety 
  • Rapid or variable breathing 
  • Shaking or trembling 
  • Increased sweating 
  • Feeling on edge or agitated
  • Feeling confused 
  • Increased heart rate 

Robin Astley, age 24, shares her experience with Nomophobia symptoms: 

“For me, it was this all-consuming thing. If I was anxious, I would scroll on my phone. If I was sad, I’d scroll on my phone. Angry. Happy. I would attach my moods to my phone, which was a pretty futile thing to ask of an inanimate object. The worst thing would be this crippling fear of running out of internet whilst I was out. And then there was the worry that my phone would die. It got quite extreme because I always needed to have or be near a charger. My phone pretty much became an extension of me.”

What are the causes of Nomophobia? 

A study of 270 young business people whilst at work, findings showed that being without a mobile phone or unable to connect to it led to a perception of social threat, that caused them stress.2 This is thought to be one of the causal pathways of Nomophobia. 

It is not clear whether some psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression can lead to Nomophobia or vice versa. For example, perfectionism, aggressiveness, impulsiveness and low self-esteem can all influence the onset of Nomophobia through excessive mobile phone use.3,5

Technology and the brain 

Technology has fundamentally changed our lives, from giving us access to more information than ever before to connecting us with people all over the world at the push of a button. And whilst there are many benefits to internet access and mobile phone use, there are also some dangers. 

When you eat tasty food, move your body, engage in sexual intercourse or spend time with your friends, a chemical called dopamine is released in your brain. This same chemical, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward, is released when you get a like, follow or message on social media. Whilst these interactions can feel positive, too much of them or an overreliance on them to feel good can become a problem. 

With one in four of us claiming to be online most of the time, it’s important to reflect on whether our social media and internet use is healthy for us.6 Some of the potential harms associated with the overuse of mobile phones and devices are listed below:7

Reduced attention 

The digital world has been termed an ‘attention economy’, in which human attention is seen as a commodity to be attracted to and exploited.8 Whether it is that Instagram advert that keeps popping up encouraging you to spend money on a new brand, or that email that pings on your phone when you’re trying to relax after work, digital apps are designed to keep you on your device. It’s thought that competition between different apps on a person’s phone can lead to them attempting to multitask by shifting their attention from one to the other, which can be damaging to their attention span.7

Lower emotional and social intelligence 

Spending more and more time online or on a device limits the amount of time you spend with friends or family, which is especially important for children aged two years or below when a person is first developing bonds and their brain is first developing.

Social isolation 

A study of 1787 young adults aged 19–32 years found that social media use of two or more hours per day doubled the likelihood of feeling socially isolated, compared with social media use of less than 30 minutes.10 

Technology addiction 

It is thought that six out of every 100 people experience internet addiction.11 This is when a person feels dependent on accessing the internet to manage and get through the day. Internet use may frequently be on their mind as a priority above other things, such as seeing friends or looking after their physical health, making their internet use harmful both psychologically and physically. 

How is Nomophobia diagnosed? 

There is no formal diagnosis of Nomophobia or any phobia. But, recently a questionnaire has been developed to identify if a person has Nomophobia (NMP-Q).12 The 20-part questionnaire rates the severity of Nomophobia as a score out of 140, with a higher score suggesting more severe Nomophobia and answers ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Some examples of statements included are 'I would feel uncomfortable without constant access to information through my smartphone' and 'If I were to run out of credit or hit my data limit, I would panic'. 

Usually, a healthcare professional will take a medical history to identify any underlying causes of Nomophobia. It is important to speak to a healthcare professional if you think you may be experiencing Nomophobia to ensure that you get the support that is most suitable for you. If you are worried about speaking to a healthcare provider, it can help to take a friend or family member with you for support. 

How is Nomophobia treated? 

There are a range of treatments that may be recommended for someone who is experiencing Nomophobia. The infographic below covers some of the main methods of treatment:1

Image source: Parr-Reid S. Canva. 

When speaking with your healthcare provider about medications for Nomophobia, it is important to discuss the options carefully, as medications will have side effects you need to be aware of before taking them. 

Ways to manage Nomophobia 

There are various ways you can manage Nomophobia, as the infographic below shows:

Image source: Parr-Reid S. Canva. 

Robin shares how she was able to manage her Nomophobia over time: 

“To be honest, going cold turkey some days was the only way. I’d be like, ‘Mum, please keep my phone and don’t give it back until the end of the day!’ It was weird at first because I didn’t know what to do and was restless. But gradually, I started to worry less about being on my phone, and I think my friends noticed, too. I felt closer to them.” 

Supporting others with Nomophobia

Understand their experience

The most helpful thing you can do when supporting someone with Nomophobia is to try and understand their feelings and experiences. You can try to ask them questions about how their phobia impacts their day-to-day life. This will help you to empathise. 

Being gentle with them 

It helps not to put pressure on someone with a phobia, as this can overwhelm them and make their symptoms worse. Being gentle with them is vital. 

Ask what can help them 

It can help to figure out the kind of support they need, whether that is someone to distract them or someone to help them stay calm. Perhaps they may require support with attending healthcare or therapy appointments. Help might also look like encouraging them to go out and see their friends or family. 


Nomophobia is an intense fear of being without or disconnected from your mobile phone. Symptoms can include anxiety, shakiness, confusion and agitation when unable to use your mobile. These symptoms can relate to other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, either as a cause or effect. 

Nomophobia can be treated through talking therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and exposure therapy as well as anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medications. There are many coping strategies from using apps to limit screen time to incorporating more in-person social activities or asking someone to help you stay accountable.


  1. Bhattacharya S, Bashar MA, Strivastava A and Singh A. NOMOPHOBIA: NO MObile PHone PhoBIA. J Family Med Prim Care 2019;8(4): 1297–1300. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31143710/
  2. Tams S, Legoux R and Leger PM. Smartphone withdrawal creates stress: A moderated mediation model of nomophobia, social threat, and phone withdrawal context. Comput Human Behav 2018;81: 1–9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563217306647
  3. Long J and Liu T. Maladaptive perfectionism: A potential risk factor for smartphone addiction? Int Arch Addict Res Med 2015;1: 013. https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/iaarm/international-archives-of-addiction-research-and-medicine-iaarm-1-013.pdf
  4. Kim M, Kim H, Kim K, Ju S, Choi J and Yu M. Smartphone addiction: (Focused Depression, Aggression and Impulsion) among College Students. Indian J Sci Technol 2015;8(25): 1–8. https://indjst.org/articles/smartphone-addiction-focused-depression-aggression-and-impulsion-among-college-students
  5. Augner C and Hacker GW. Associations between problematic mobile phone use and psychological parameters in young adults. Int J Public Health 2012;57(2): 437–441. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21290162/
  6. Firth J, Torus J, Stubbs B, Firth JA, Steiner GZ, Smith L, Alvarez-Jimenez M, Gleeson J, Vancampfort D, Armitage CJ and Sarris J. The “online brain”: how the Internet may be changing our cognition. World Psychiatry 2019;18(2): 119–129. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502424/
  7. Small GW, Lee J, Kaufman A, Jalil J, Siddarth P, Gaddipati H, Moody TD and Bookheimer SY. Brain health consequences of digital technology use. Dialogues Clin Neurosci 2020;22(2): 179–187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7366948/#ref1
  8. Ciampaglia GL, Flammini A and Menczer F. The production of information in the attention economy. Scientific Reports 2015;5: 9452. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep09452
  9. Bar-On M, Broughton DB, Buttross S, Corrigan S, Gedissman A, Gonzales de Rivas MR, Rich M and Shifrin DL. American Academy of Pediatrics: Children, adolescents, and television. Pediatrics 2001;107(2): 423–426. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11158483/
  10. Primack BA, Shensa A, Sidani JE, Whaite EO, Lin LY, Rosen D, Colditz JB, Radovic AM and Miller E. Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Adults in the U.S. Am J Prev Med 2017;53(1): 1–8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5722463/
  11. Chou HTG and Edge N. “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychol Behav Netw 2012;15(2): 117–121. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22165917/
  12. Yildirim C and Correia AP. Exploring the dimensions of nomophobia: Development and validation of a self-reported questionnaire. Comput Hum Behav 2015;49: 130–137. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0747563215001806
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Scarlett Parr-Reid

Master of Science - MSc, Science Communication, Imperial College London

Scarlett is a medical writer and science communicator with several years of writing experience across magazines, newspapers and blogs within the charity sector. Scarlett studied a BSc in Medical Sciences, specialising in neuroscience, and has a particular interest in neurological diseases.

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