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Nomophobia: Is Your Cellphone Addiction Covered?

The term nomophobia - "no mobile" phobia - was coined in 2008 by British researchers, and now a U.K. survey shows that more than half of the population suffer from this condition.

A 2012 survey by Internet security and mobile technology firm SecurEnvoy shows that two-thirds of the population, 66 percent of the 1,000 survey respondents, experience nomophobia, up 13 percent from the first study in 2008.

But having the condition may not necessarily warrant medical attention.

"While the fact that so many people say they experience real fear just thinking about losing their mobile phone is startling, it doesn't necessarily mean that every one of those of 66 percent of respondents need treatment," says Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, an addiction and recovery expert with Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, Calif.

Nomophobia becomes a problem when it causes trouble in a relationship, such as someone not nurturing the relationship because they are always on their phone, says Waterman. "It also becomes a problem if you're getting in trouble at work or at school because you're looking at non-work and non-school messages or material on your phone," she says.  (See: " The 411 on cellphone tickets.")

Dr. Brian Johnson, director of addiction psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical school in Syracuse, N.Y., says, "Addiction is a serious thing, and it's important not to trivialize it the way some people do when they say they are 'addicted' to a TV show or to chocolate. By definition, addiction occurs when someone experiences repeated harm from 'x' or whatever it is they are addicted to, which is usually something enjoyable."

Johnson says that nomophobia for some people could be part of an anxiety disorder, but he says it's hard to identify this as a phobia or an addiction because the harm caused by overusing a cellphone is minor compared to the devastating physical consequences of drug addiction or even the financial ruin associated with a shopping addiction.

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