Nomophobia Treatment – Cell Phone Anxieties

Nomophobia is a recently identified issue that some patients are experiencing which is categorized by undue anxiety over separation or lack of access to their mobile phone.  In a recent news report on the national cable network Headline News (HLN), Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, one of Morningside Recovery’s therapists, explains that if you are experiencing the following, you might have Nomophobia:

  • Frequently checking your phone
  • Using your phone in inappropriate places
  • Constantly checking your phone to make sure the battery life is at full capacity

According to Dr. Waterman, Nomophobia is most common in women from ages 18-24.  This can be a serious disorder because it can lead to unhealthy alterations in lifestyle.  She explains that “it’s not a stand-alone disorder [we] treat but usually connected to a larger issue, like anxiety, something patients come in for.”  Nomophobia treatment is a good example of dual-diagnosis disorders commonly treated at Morningside Recovery.

Individual and group therapy works well for clients who suffer from Nomophobia. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is usually the preferred treatment modality.  CBT is based on the idea that the way you feel is partly dependent on the way you think about things. Clients can learn through CBT to improve their self-esteem by overcoming negative thoughts.

When clients enter the treatment program at Morningside, their phones are collected and they are allowed very limited access to them.  According to Dr. Waterman, that’s because “it’s critical in a recovery environment to cut off connections to the outside world.”  Through therapy and counseling, the client is helped to develop more healthy connections and attitudes surrounding people and his or her use of cell phones.

Therapy will also teach clients ways of changing their behavior, which makes it easier to deal with the panic attacks associated with nomophobia. For example, for nomophobia, a client may be taught how to use distraction techniques, like running their hands under water, or stepping outside to have a face-to-face conversation with someone. They might also be taught breathing techniques that he or she can use to help keep calm during the stress of a panic attack. Other Morningside staff assists with the regular exercise that burns off stress chemicals and reduces anxiety levels.

The important point to take away from Dr. Waterman’s interviews, which have been syndicated and broadcast on newscasts across the United States, is that Nomophobia becomes a concern when it interferes with your day-to-day activities.  Dr. Waterman suggests: “Try to put your phone down for a certain amount of time each day. There is no magic number in terms of how long it should be put down, but just try to put it down for a few moments and try to refocus on your face-to-face interactions.”

Where did the name nomophobia come from? Lewis Carroll once said “the naming of Cats is a serious matter.”  Phobias have traditionally been named using agglutination of Ancient Greek terms, such as the term Coulrophobia which is commonly known as fear of clowns (from the Ancient Greek term kōlobathristēs meaning stilt-walker* and phobia, meaning fear).  So what can be done when there is a new phobia for which there is absolutely no corresponding concept in the Ancient Greek language? With Nomophobia, a term has been coined which is a combination of the first letters of the term describing it (in English), No mobile phone phobia … or Nomophobia.

* The Ancient Greeks had no immediately corresponding concept of a “clown” as an entertainer, so this is the closest thing they could come up with.


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