According to a blog posted by Madeline Stone on the Business Insider website, smartphone addiction is a serious problem in the United States. Stone states that so many people have become addicted to their smartphones that a new term has entered our lexicon – nomophobia (short for no-mobile-phone phobia). According to Stone, symptoms include “feelings of panic or desperation when separated from your smartphone, not being able to focus on conversations or work and constantly checking phones for notifications”. Responding to each notification actually releases dopamine in the brain, rewarding the smartphone addict for such behavior. This addiction is no different than addictions to gambling, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc.

Some interesting facts that Stone has researched:

  • 90% of Americans have a cell phone
  • 58% of them own a smartphone
  • 63% check their phones for messages or calls once per hour
  • 9% check their phones every 5 minutes
  • 63% stated they would be upset if they left home without their smartphone
  • 64% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 have fallen asleep with their tablet or cell phone in bed with them

People who suffer from nomophobia likely don’t even realize that they have a problem. The majority of people will deny that they suffer from this addiction, but denial is a hallmark of addictive disorders in general.

Stone’s research reveals that the problem is so severe that ‘digital detox programs’ have sprung up. One is called “Camp Grounded” in northern California that bans electronic devices “in the hopes that unplugging will help cure technology addiction”.  Psychiatrist Dale Archer says that “it’s important to create guidelines for when it’s appropriate to use your phone and when it’s not”.

“Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with your friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes,” Archer said. “It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow.”

I think it most important that we start a dialogue in modern organizations to deal with nomophobia. Many companies have EA programs to deal with other addictions – why not include nomophobia?