Are you a nomophobe?

Or maybe you suffer from sleep texting or glass eye. Welcome to a new world of mobile maladies

The joys of mobile computing are not without a downside. A wide range of diseases, disorders and syndromes have emerged around our growing gadget habit.

Here's my roundup of problems related to use of smartphones and other mobile gadgets. Are you a sufferer? Let's have a look.

Nomophobia

Nomophobia is the most common smartphone-related malady. It's the fear of being separated from your phone.

People reading texts
Although not yet recognized by psychologists, smartphone addiction is real.

The word was coined in the U.K. in a YouGov report commissioned by the U.K. postal service to examine various problems suffered by mobile phone users. The study found that about two-thirds of the U.K. public suffers from nomophobia, which is short for "no-mobile phobia."

You can see evidence of nomophobia every time an airplane lands. Sufferers scramble for their phones and turn them on compulsively. In a Harvard Business School survey of 1,600 managers and professionals, 70% of the respondents said that they check their smartphones within an hour of waking up and 56% said they do so within an hour of going to sleep. More than half reported that they check constantly while on vacation, and 44% said they would experience "a great deal of anxiety" if they lost their phone.

There's even an Android app called Nomophobia, which doubles as a widget, that tracks your obsessive cellphone use.

Smartphone addiction

An extreme version of nomophobia is smartphone addiction, which is when one's preoccupation with a smartphone affects relationships, work or school.

Smartphone addiction is the stuff of Internet memes, such as this bride checking her phone during the wedding ceremony, and of course this inevitable Buzzfeed listsicle.

Smartphone addiction takes many forms. Lisa Merlo, director of psychotherapy training at the University of Florida, told a an AP reporter that some addicts withdraw into their phone in social situations and use the phone as a way to avoid human contact. She said the more advanced a phone is, the more addictive it is.

The South Korean government says 20% of Korean high school students are addicted to smartphones.

The cure for smartphone addiction remains elusive, although one journalist says he cured himself through meditation.

Sleep texting

Four out of five U.S. teenagers sleep with their smartphones within reach, either next to their beds or on them. Many do this so messages from friends can wake them up, which leads to "junk sleep" syndrome, a problem I told you about in this space six years ago.

In recent years, however, a new menace has been plaguing smartphone users, especially teens. It's called sleep texting, and it happens when people text without waking up or even remembering that they did it.

Screen insomnia

Related to "junk sleep syndrome" and sleep texting is screen insomnia.

Bright lights tells your brain that it's the middle of the day. If you hold a tablet or smartphone in front of your eyes to read in bed, it can make it much harder to fall asleep.

A hormone called melatonin helps regulate our body's clocks. Humans are hardwired for sunlight to set our melatonin levels. However, a bright screen in front of our eyes tricks our bodies into acting like it's the middle of the day, which suppresses melatonin and prevents us from feeling drowsy.

The solution is to dim the screen and hold your device farther from your eyes, and to try to minimize use of devices in the two hours before bedtime.

Of course, any screen can mess with your body's internal clock, from a laptop to a TV. But smartphone-induced insomnia is on the rise as handheld screens get bigger, better and brighter. And tablet-induced insomnia is a growing problem, too, because tablets are increasingly replacing paper books and passive-screen e-readers.

Glass eye

I coined the term "Glass eye" because I have experienced it myself. Google Glass beams a bright light into your right eye, but not the left. This isn't a problem in bright light because your pupil isn't dilated.

However, in a dark room, the use of Google Glass can cause "Glass eye" -- an uncomfortable set of feelings from using Glass in a dark room. These include mild pain in the right eye, and also minor headache and nausea. I suspect the latter two symptoms are caused by brain confusion from the right eye being exposed to a very bright light while the left eye is in relative darkness. The discordance, called "visual confusion," is a little like motion sickness.

Google won't sell Glass to children under 18, and the company warns users not to allow kids to use Glass for fear of eye problems.

1 2 Page
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies