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BOSTON (CBS) – Chances are you know someone like Mary Helen Beatificato. She can’t stand the thought of being away from her mobile phone, even for a short time. “The panic and anxiety that I have during those seconds is probably not normal,” she said. “Even while I’m sleeping, my hand is on my phone.”
Mary Helen is right. It is not normal. Psychologists have even come up with a name for it: Nomophobia as in ‘no mobile phone’ and Mary Helen says she’s got it bad. “It goes with me in the bath and the shower. I actually have a case that is fully submergible.” As a full-time working mother of two, she says she can’t imagine how she would manage without her phone. “I can do so many things with my cell, order school lunches; I can look at cameras inside my house to check on my children when I’m not there.”
Dr. Elizabeth Waterman is a psychologist who helps to treat people with the condition. The symptoms, she says, are easy to recognize: frequently checking the phone, using it in inappropriate places and constantly making sure the battery is at full capacity.
According to Waterman, Nomophobia is most common in women age 18 – 24 and it can get to the point where the phone use can interfere with life. “Someone with an unhealthy attachment to their phone may have thoughts like, ‘I can’t do my day without my phone’,” she said.
Experts say Nomophobia is often connected to a larger psychological issue like anxiety. Waterman’s advice is to slowly take steps to separate yourself from your phone. “Try to put your phone down for a certain amount of time each day. There is no magic number in terms of how long. Try to put it down for a while and try to refocus on your face-to-face interactions,” she said.
That may be easier said than done for Mary Helen and thousands like her.