Cellphone addiction phobias increasing
PRETORIA: South Africa has been hit by a new wave of addiction – in this instance a failure to be separated from a smartphone.
There is even a word for it: nomophobia, coined from a term, no-mobile-phone-phobia. It is a psychological syndrome in which a person is afraid of being out of cellphone contact.
And according to experts, cellphone addiction merited inclusion in substance and behavioural addiction, like gambling disorder.
Cellphone addiction has been labelled an obsessive-compulsive disorder by experts, hitting largely young smartphone users, who depend on the gadget to fit in and remain socially active to stave off loneliness.
The experts have declared it potentially one of the biggest non-drug addictions in the 21st century.
Similar problems have caught South Africa in the behavioural cellphone habit grip, as has been found in a study conducted by Unisa. The study found that about six in every 10 pupils were heavily reliant on their cellphones.
The pupils regarded their mobile devices as a common denominator for inclusivity and to being part of a digital cellphone community of friends.
The study, conducted by the Bureau of Market Research College of Economic and Management Sciences, was the first of its kind in the country. It was done to determine problematic cellphone habits among high school pupils.
Almost 50 percent of surveyed pupils from 11 private and a similar number of public schools displayed addiction behaviours. The study also found higher prevalence rates of cellphone addiction among female, high school grade and older pupils.
Their behaviour fell in line with other studies around cellphone behaviour conducted around the world, with psychologists describing several symptoms of the typical newly emerged mental disorder known as cellphone addiction or cellphone dependence.
Typical symptoms include users admitting to getting diverted and becoming unable to focus on almost anything if they did not have their cellphones at hand.
“Even if they put their mobile in vibration mode, they continuously keep watching whether there is any missed call or messages received,” a cellphone communication expert report said.
Cellphone users admitted to their reluctance to connect their phones to a charger, preferring to use alternative battery charging options such as power banks.
Teenagers and adults were in the grip of nomophobia, according to studies.
Nomophobia also describes the level of fear generated when a user is unable to communicate through a cellphone.
Communication experts said it was characterised by an anxiety which people faced when they could not get a signal from a cellphone tower; running out of battery power; forgetting to take the phone with them; or simply not receiving calls, texts or e-mail notifications for a while.
Young smartphone users said they used their phones to listen to music, take pictures, for the internet, and to send and receive text messages and social networking.
Adults, on the other hand, said they used their cellphones for social media, texting and chatting, online shopping and playing games. Both groups admitted to hours spent on their cellphone and showing behavioural cellphone problems, the study said.
Identified by psychologists as being chief among symptoms of addiction have been excessive use and the loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension and depression when the phone or network was inaccessible, and symptoms of nomophobia or “ringxiety”.
“Although it has not been officially described an addiction, cellphone addiction has been dubbed the new cigarette,” Unisa Professor Deon Tustin said.
The overuse of the cellphone could affect users socially, physically and psychologically, especially for people who did not understand the impact of overuse, he said.
Behavioural patterns were the tipping point and could easily throw the country into a situation of a misunderstood addiction if the situation was not given urgent attention.