Suffering from “Nomophobia” (no-mobile-phone-phobia)? The term hasn’t yet made it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the bible of psychiatric disorders), but Greenfield says the anxiety is not just in your head. A recent survey of 496 college students found those who used their phones the most were more likely to have anxiety and report lower satisfaction in life compared with students who used their phones less, according to the findings published in Computers in Human Behavior. Another survey found that when the respondents misplaced their phones, 73% felt panicked, and 14% desperate.
“We’ve become conditioned to the potential for information to be there every time we hear a beep, buzz, or vibration,” Greenfield says. When you’re using your device, you are always on duty—“hyper vigilant” to incoming calls, texts, Tweets, or updates, putting you in a state of ongoing arousal. That means every time the phone buzzes or beeps, alerting you of new information, there’s an elevation in dopamine (the chemical messenger that signals that experience is pleasurable, increasing the likelihood you’ll do it again). “We always want to be connected because never want to miss anything,” Greenfield says.