Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Non-Chemical Addictions No more gadgets, or how to deal with nomophobia?

No more gadgets, or how to deal with nomophobia?

23.07.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

How does the modern man start his morning? Not always with hygienic procedures; many people take up a smartphone as soon as they open their eyes to check notifications. How does the evening end? Of course, by studying “important” news on a smartphone screen.

It is difficult to imagine a world without tablets and phones, but when any sense of proportion disappears, gadgets with access to the Internet provoke the development of severe psychological dependence called nomophobia. It’s time to get off the hook of your smartphone if it has become your “personal drug” to such an extent that the real world seems unfriendly. The article will discuss important issues: what is the danger of smartphone addiction and how to deal with it?


What is the smartphone addiction?

phone addiction

“I’m 22 years old. I have been actively using social networks for about 5 years — I am registered on many sites, have hundreds of friends, regularly create posts and read other people’s ones. Recently, I realized that dependence on social networks not only hinders me but makes life very difficult: starting from studies at the university and ending with relationships with my boyfriend. When I urgently need to do coursework, I cannot “unstick” from the phone. My boyfriend is offended that I’m just concerned about the constant posting of beautiful shots on the social network.

The saddest thing is that there is no need for real communication. I became too lazy to meet with friends, go somewhere for the weekend and visit interesting places. It scares me, I’m unhappy with myself and my life. I know I’m in trouble, but I don’t know how to get rid of the addiction. I can’t just delete all my social media accounts – that’s where my whole life is.”

– Ekaterina, 22 y.o.

Nomophobia is the fear of being left without a mobile phone even for a short time. The term “nomophobia” was first used by YouGov, a UK research firm, in 2008. Sociologists then surveyed 2,000 people to find out what level of stress a modern person is experiencing without a phone. The data was depressing, with about 53% of smartphone users admitting to worrying when they remain “out of the reach” for one reason or another. [1]

The problem of smartphone dependence is relevant for all developed countries. Online games, news, social networks and online shopping — if at some point you can’t tell yourself “stop,” entertainment that seems harmless becomes a psychological disease.

According to sociological studies, a person spends about 3 hours a day with their smartphone. Scientists believe that men are more prone to nomophobia than women. Experts are particularly concerned about the fact that children are appearing among the gadget-addicts in increasing numbers. [2]

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Causes of nomophobia

The causes of nomophobia are not related to the phone as such. It’s just an electronic device with a set of functions. Psychologists explain the dependence on gadgets by the appearance of personal problems.

What can trigger the development of nomophobia?

  1. Fear of being lonely

A smartphone is the source of any information, a quick way to stay in touch with friends and family. When a person for one reason or another does not have a phone at hand, he feels isolated from the world. For many, it turns out to be a terrible ordeal, because they are used to being aware of everything that happens around. In “isolation” they have to think about really important things and immerse themselves in their thoughts which is also not the most pleasant activity for a person with serious personal problems.

  1. Striving to be needed

In the online world it could be anyone under the guise of a beautiful userpic and a daring nick— a successful businessman, a fatal beauty or a young rebel. The smartphone becomes an outlet for those who find it difficult to build relationships with people in reality. In social networks and forums a shy person feels necessary and meaningful — he gets what he is deprived of in everyday life. When reality does not bring pleasure, it is replaced by virtual entertainment.

  1. Inability to “properly” relax

Lack of hobbies, inability or unwillingness to actively relax, and frequent procrastination significantly accelerate the pace of nomophobia development. To somehow “kill” free time, a person spends it with a smartphone in their hands. It is not surprising since reading news, gaming and social communication deliver more positive emotions than boring real life.

How does the problem manifest itself?

virtual communication

The main sign of nomophobia can be defined as follows: the smartphone becomes the eternal companion of a person. The phone is always in your hands — at work, at home, during meeting with friends and outdoor activities. The gadget turns into the best friend and advisor in important matters, a source of information and entertainment.

How does a typical addict behave?

  • He often changes gadgets, trying to use only new models;
  • He constantly keeps hold on the phone;
  • He checks e-mails with manic persistence and visits social networks dozens of times a day;
  • He stays in touch even at night;
  • He constantly monitors the level of charge of the phone.
  • He starts and ends the day with a smartphone;
  • He is constantly afraid, that the smartphone will fail at the most important moment – suddenly turn off or have no coverage. [2]

Signs of smartphone addiction are exacerbated when a person loses access to the gadget for one reason or another. Psychologists compare this with alcoholism and drug addiction — being deprived of smartphone, like being deprived of alcohol, causes an acute withdrawal syndrome. The person comes to an agitated state, becoming irritated and fidgety. For a while, the addict can lose control of himself and become aggressive towards others, trying to find a gadget in a panic. In particularly difficult cases, the withdrawal syndrome is also expressed by dizziness, increased sweating and heartbeat, and tremor of the limbs. [3]

Smartphone dependency test

Having an advanced gadget does not mean that the person is addicted. Problems only appear when the phone becomes the only source of positive emotions.

Take the nomophobia test to see if there is a cause for concern. Answer “yes” or “no” to several questions. Each positive statement gives you 1 point. [1]

  1. You always carry your phone with you (even going to the toilet and bath is not a “real reason” to part with your mobile device).
  2. You’d rather dig in your phone than communicate with real people.
  3. If you don’t have a telephone at hand, you are nervous.
  4. At night, you always leave the phone at the head of the bed.
  5. Waking up in the morning, you immediately pick up the phone to check the notification, go to social networks, and read e-mails.
  6. You do not like to visit places where you need to turn off your phone (concerts, theater, and movies).
  7. You don’t remember any important information (phones, addresses, and birthdays) but keep it on your mobile device.
  8. You’ve begun to notice that you do not remember information well.
  9. You envy people who can change smartphone models often.
  10. You always come home if you find that you have forgotten your phone.
  11. You never regret the money spent for a new phone (you can even take a loan from the bank for this purpose).
  12. You fall into a deep depression if the phone fails or breaks down.
  13. You have more virtual friends – those with whom you communicate only in chat rooms, than real ones.

Now count the points. The test results can be interpreted as follows:

Less than 4 points. Owning smartphone did not make you forget that there are more interesting things in real life than in the virtual world.

5-9 points. You are already “on the hook” of your smartphone. This is the reason to be more attentive to your pastime. Give preference to the real world, not the virtual one.

More than 10 points. We can talk about serious addiction. What to do? It’s time to radically rethink your habits and change the way you behave.

Children, teens, and adults: features of nomophobia

children playing on the phone

“My son is 12. Recently, we bought him a new-fashioned smartphone (previously he used a regular phone). And now I no longer recognize my boy. His phone is always with him — when he wakes up in the morning, in the evening before going to bed, eating, in the toilet. As soon as he arrives from school, he picks his phone and spends all evening playing or watching videos. He makes homework only when I remind him and tries to finish as soon as possible in order to quickly pick up his phone again. I fight with him about it, but nothing helps. I understand that my child is addicted to his phone, and I don’t know what to do.”

– Marina, mother of 12-year-old Igor

Nomophobia can manifest itself at different ages. In each age group, dependence has its own peculiarities.

Studies of psychologists show that young people are more prone to the smartphone addiction. Of those aged 18-24, 77% of young people have symptoms of smartphone addiction. Among 25-34-years-old respondents, the figure is slightly lower – 68% of potential nomophobes.

Nomophobia in children

Many children grow familiar with gadgets by the age of 3. The child has not learned to talk well, but already easily deals with a modern phone. Each first-grader already has his smartphone with Internet access. The dependence on the phone in children progresses much faster due to their still unformed psyche.

This trend is very worrying for psychologists. A child under 7 years old must actively develop, discovering the world around him, and not constantly look at the smartphone screen. A schooler should spend free time with peers or in a sports section than at home with a phone in his hands. Nomophobia “inhibits” the normal development of the child. They become restless, anxious and irritable, poorly assimilate information and loose all interest in the outside world. [4]

Parents are often to blame for the development of “children’s” nomophobia. Not having the time or desire to give the kid enough attention, they pass this “function” to numerous gadgets. It’s easier to give the child a smartphone with games to captivate an active child. But then you’ll have to put a lot of effort to save the child from addiction to the phone and the Internet.

Nomophobia in teenagers

Teenage maximalism is manifested literally in everything, including the use of gadgets.

The smartphone addiction in teenagers runs wild — they register in all social networks, play games, subscribe to dozens of publics, comment every their step in the account, are constantly “on-line” in chat rooms. All these are symptoms of nomophobia.

More often than not, shy children, who find it difficult to establish communication with their peers, immerse themselves in the online world. They can fully express themselves and make friends only in social networks and forums under fictitious nicknames. Also, the virtual world is the easiest way for a teenager to get away from existing problems (in the family or at school). Experiencing stress, the child tries to get positive emotions at least “online.”

Children aged 12-16 are very scrupulous in the struggle for personal space. Therefore, tough measures on the part of parents who want to overcome the mobile dependence of the teenager, depriving them of their favorite gadget, can be perceived as a real betrayal. In this case, it is essential to take a thoughtful approach to preventing nomophobia, so as not to destroy the relationship with the child.

Nomophobia in adults

It seems that an adult, unlike a child, is fully aware of what he is doing. He understands harmful effects of bad habits. But even adults sometimes plunge headlong into the virtual world, making the smartphone their eternal life partner.

The main problem of smartphone addiction in adults is that many nomophobes do not admit to the last that they have become addicted to their smartphone. The person thinks that everything is under control, but in fact, it is not. At some point, everything changes: it turns out that it’s not a person that owns a phone, but a phone owns them.

The smartphone and Internet addiction in adults is an established behavior model. If you can’t overcome the habit yourself, you can use the 7Spsy behavior modification technique to help replace negative attitudes with positive ones and assimilate a healthy behavior model.

Why is it important to get rid of nomophobia?

The smartphone addiction affects all aspects of a person’s life. What negative consequences can it have?

A person, constantly immersed in the virtual world, forgets about the real one. He does not communicate with “live” people, limits himself in active rest, and his productivity decreases.

The addict becomes more irritable, which undoubtedly affects both work and communication with loved ones. He sometimes does not control his actions — for example, recklessly spends an impressive amount of money to buy a new gadget.

Nomophobes don’t even turn off the sound on their cell phones at night. Constant signals from spam and news interfere with a good rest. Lack of sleep only increases anxiety and reduces productivity.

Many addicts, ceasing to control themselves, just refuse to travel to places with “bad service” or where they need to disable the device. These are serious limitations to an interesting daily life.

How to get rid of nomophobia?

chat with friends

The first step that will help to get rid of the smartphone addiction is to recognize that the problem does exist. Psychology suggests the following measures to help combat addiction.

  1. Record the time spent with the phone in your hands

To start fighting smartphone addiction, watch yourself. Record exactly how much time you spend with your phone in your hands.

Try to document your virtual activity — when and how much time was spent on phone conversations, when and what sites were visited, how long you were in social networks. At the end of the day, you will see the real scale of the “tragedy” and will certainly be able to adjust how you spend your time with the smartphone. Besides, it will help to understand what exactly causes a wild desire to pick up a phone or go online — boredom or a sense of loneliness.

  1. Talk more to “real” people

All your communication is correspondence with strangers in social networks and on forums? Change habits: make more real friends than virtual ones. This is a serious work on yourself since you will have to overcome the fear of interacting with others directly and learn to listen carefully to the person you are talking to without being distracted by the phone.

Not ready to change so radically and make friends “in real life”? Start simple. Next time, instead of texting someone you know, call them. This is the first small step to live communication, which will teach you not to become flustered when talking.

  1. Put your phone away

When the phone is always at hand, your attention is inevitably focused on it. As a result, you are distracted from work or from communicating with loved ones. Take it as a rule to keep your phone away from yourself when you don’t need it. This way you will protect yourself from the temptation to check every minute if someone has called, or if there were any “interesting” news.

In order not to miss an important call, just make the ring melody louder.

  1. Allocate a specific time to using your smartphone

To gradually combat nomophobia, allocate a limited amount of time in the morning, afternoon and evening, when you could check messages and view mail on your smartphone. For example, start with half an hour 4-5 times during the day. When the allotted time runs out, put the phone away and proceed with everyday activities. Later you can gradually reduce the time interval, and allocate not half an hour at a time, but only 10 minutes. You will have to constantly suppress your desire to pick up the phone when you want to.

“Time for gadgets” is an important rule for parents whose child spends all free time with a phone in his hands. Prohibitions do not always work, so it is better to negotiate with children. Let the child have a strictly allotted time (no more than 1-2 hours a day) for games and entertainment with a smartphone. [4]

  1. Use silent mode

Short message signals distract from everyday tasks, drawing attention to a coveted phone. Use silent mode, at least in those moments when you should be focused on other activities.

At night, it is better to turn off the sound of the smartphone, so that nothing interferes with the rest.

We will help you to get rid of Internet addiction

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is the solution to the problem.

Nomophobia is a bad habit that needs to be corrected. Abandoning it should be categorical so that the phone stops stealing your precious time, which can be spent with much greater benefit. It is important to understand that you will not be alone if you spend less time online. It is mobile dependence that indicates loneliness. How to overcome dependence on the phone, if self-improvement does not give a positive result?

In the fight against nomophobia, it is important to change the pattern of behavior that does not allow you to let go of the phone and finally look at real color-rich life with unadulterated eyes. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique shows high efficiency in getting rid of bad habits. The program is based on the scientific theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky, etc.

Passing the course, you will change the pathological pattern of behavior step by step. You will understand that real life is much more interesting than virtual. Endless photos in social networks, news, and spam — all this is not worth the huge amount of time that you spend with a smartphone in your hands. Training sessions will allow you to replace negative attitudes with positive ones and develop good habits. You will learn to communicate with real people, leaving hundreds of strangers on forums and in chat rooms in the past. There will come an understanding of the advantages of life without smartphone addiction.

During the course, the psychologist will answer all your questions, provide support and give valuable recommendations. Classes are held remotely. The experts may help you by phone, e-mail and through online chats. The training is designed for up to 6 weeks. Participation in the training is strictly confidential. This is extremely important for those who do not want to tell friends and colleagues about actively fighting their bad habits.


  1. «Nekhimicheskie zavisimosti», 2007 g., A. Iu Egorov.
  2. «Problemy mobilnoi zavisimosti i prichiny ikh vozniknoveniia» (zhurnal «Voprosy psikhologii», 2006 g., №1), O. P. Koriagina.
  3. «Fenomen zavisimosti ot Interneta» (zhurnal «Gumanitarnye issledovaniia v Internete», 2000 g., №6), A. E. Voiskunskii.
  4. «Vliianie gadzhetov na psikhiku rebenka: markery problemy, spektr posledstvii» (zhurnal «Kontsept», 2016 g., №15), V. A. Taburtsa.