Although no one can deny the usefulness of a smartphone, in recent times, such devices have sprung up mental health issues among users. Nomophobia has been recently accepted as a phobic disorder where people have a fear of being in a place where there is no mobile phone network as they may miss something important. Not being constantly connected to their smartphone can create panic in some people and it is fast emerging as another technology-related emotional problem called FOMO (fear of missing out).

It has affected at least 70 percent of adult between the age group 14 and 30. Over half of my patients, especially men, find it tough to turn off their phones during the 60-minute therapy session. They leave the phone on the table where it is visible and keep checking to see if it lights up. They react with high anxiety when I lay down ground rules about cellphone usage during sessions.

Many high-level managers find it difficult to tune out during vacations. FOMO is not just about emails, though. A majority of it is because of the various social networking forums that are now easily accessible via smartphones. Teens, young professionals, married couples and even retired people seem to have been bitten by the FOMO bug. Today, people are obsessed with getting more ‘likes’ on their Facebook posts and photos or worried about whom to retweet or thinking about the most unique way to wish their friends good morning on WhatsApp.

While this may seem like a good way to connect, it can turn into an unhealthy obsession. Eventually, it may affect a person’s ability to concentrate. What is worse is that it could lead to a feeling of “not being good enough”.

Be AWARE

A: Accept FOMO as something natural rather than beating yourself up for being envious of what others have and you do not. It is okay to feel insecure when others seem to be having fun or are achieving much more than you have. Tell yourself that you may not be doing the coolest thing in town, but it is okay. Accepting the fact that you are human and cannot be perfect helps.

W: Watch yourself. Pause and take a step back. The fun (or other positives) that you are missing out on might not be as huge as you imagine it to be. Also, remember people are posting unusual events to gain attention. This is not a part of their daily life. So, is it not unrealistic to expect your life to look this way every day?

A: “Act as if” you are moving away from FOMO. Live in the present. Budget your time and allot only a part of your day to checking social networking arenas. Turn off the internet in your cellphone in progressive amounts. First for 15 minutes, then 30, then an hour. See if you can go up to five hours without the internet.
Turn off your cellphone when you go to bed and avoid checking message in the night and as soon as you wake up.
When you have an important project lined up, check WhatsApp and Facebook only once a day. Excuse yourself from groups. Remember no one will “abandon/ridicule” you if you quit a group for a short while.

R: Repeat the above. Accept your fear, keep an eye on it from a detached perspective and act as if you are only slightly bothered about missing out until it becomes second nature and your feelings change.

E: Expect realistic improvement. Accept that you cannot completely beat FOMO and the temptation/urge to check your phone regularly is bound to arise. But you can keep it under control.

This post originally appeared in The Week.