NEWPORT BEACH (CBS2) — People who frequently check their cellphones for new calls, texts, or app updates may suffer from more than just a simple obsession.

Mental health professionals have coined the condition nomophobia, or the fear of going without a phone.

Mary Helen Beatificato, the CEO of Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, is a self-admitted tech junkie with two phones and an iPhone keyboard.

“Even when I’m sleeping, my hand is on my phone. Literally,” she said. “It goes with me in the bath, and it goes with me in the shower. I actually have a case that’s fully submergible in the bathtub.”

Beatificato said she’s working through her smartphone fixation with Dr. Elizabeth Waterman, a recovery specialist from Morningside Recovery.

Waterman said symptoms of nomophobia include frequently checking a phone, using a phone in inappropriate places and constantly making sure the battery is at full capacity.

“Some people even report panic, just at the thought of not having their phone,” said Waterman.

Although nomophobia is most common in women 18 to 24 years old, Waterman said it can happen to anyone and is hazardous to a person’s health.

“Somebody with an unhealthy attachment to their phone has thoughts of, ‘I can’t go a day without my phone,’” she said.

Waterman also said nomophobia is usually connected to a larger issue, like anxiety.

Beatificato said she feels anxious because she’s expected to be reachable by phone 24/7.

“The panic and anxiety I feel in those seconds… that feel like minutes or hours… is probably not normal,” said Beatificato.

Waterman said it’s critical to sometimes cut off connections to the outside world.

“Try to put your phone down for a certain amount of time each day,” she said. “There’s no magic number in terms of how long it should be put down. But try to put it down for a while and try to focus on your face-to-face interactions.”


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