2 New Brain Disorders Caused by Technology – Nomophobia and Cyberchondria
Ah, technology… What a wonderful thing. We now have the ability to upload every last ounce of the minuscule minutia called our daily lives to the Internet. Every meal. Every person we encounter (don’t forget to tag me!). Every small, and once yawn-worthy task.
And that’s just the social web.
Technology also gives up apps. We can hail an Uber, drive an Uber, order a pizza, find a restaurant within walking distance, send a DM reminding our best friend to keep his/her crap together, or simply leave a review on that incredible movie we just saw at the theater… Before we even leave the theater.
Related: 3 Supplement For Anxiety
On Facebook we can stalk our ex’s current location, because they probably don’t know about this feature (like most of us). On our Instagram stories we get to see who is stalking our pictures (because half the folks haven’t figured out we get to view who’s watching us). And if we are Google ninjas, we can take all the data we have on a person – photos, phone numbers, location, employer, occupation, screen names – and find out where they live, all the forum posts they’ve ever made, and what kind of “adult” fetishes they might have.
Hmm… What a glorious AND crazy world we live in. We’ve never had more freedom, yet we’ve never had less privacy.
We can’t escape it. Emails mount. Work has seven ways to disrupt your weekend by “reminding” you of things you prefer not to be reminded of until Monday. Group texts attack our smart phones like it was the Death Star.
Everything you want is at your fingertips, or only a keystroke away. Shopping. Porn. Pizza. Apps. Entertainment. TV and movies.
All the information, all the time.
Soon, we’ll have smart light bulbs in our homes (true story), and self-driven cars. Heck, Space-X and Elon Musk even just find a way for us to Uber to the moon within the next few years.
But all this convenience and technology doesn’t come without a price. With advancement comes a need for evolution. Progress creates casualties. Adaptation leaves a few of struggling to cope, and not everyone survives.
What follows is a brief overview of two new brain disorder afflictions that are consuming lives and inducing stress.
2 New Brain Disorders Driven by Technology
#1 – Nomophobia
Nomophobia is the fear of not having access to our smart phones. “No mobile.” Nomophobia became a thing of note in 2012; a form of anxiety that was brought to light because of a UK-based survey.
73% of people experience panic when they can’t locate their phones. For some it’s worse than others. And for a growing percentage of the population, this “no mobile” nomophobia is completely terrorizing.
Speculating on the impact and severity of nomophobia, Piercarlo Valdesolo from the Scientific American had this to say,
“Maybe the nomophobic have higher quality relationships. Maybe the nomophobic have greater life satisfaction. Maybe they have more successful professional lives. Or maybe I should admit this is wishful thinking and try to detach from my device for a while.”
The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has yet to list nomophobia as an official phobia, but it’s coming. The actual term itself was created in 2010 by the UK Post Office who commissioned research to look into the impact of anxiety experienced by mobile phone users.
This initial study samples 2,162 individuals, and revealed: 
- 58% of men suffer from nomophobia
- 47% of women suffer from nomophobia
- 53% experience anxiety when they can’t locate their mobile phones
- 9% experience heightened stress when their phones are turned off
A second study found similar results: 
- 23% of students were classified as nomophobic
- Another 64% were at risk of developing nomophobia
Some addition statistics on cell phone usage and the anxiety associated with it:
- 65% of Americans sleep next to their cell phones. For younger adults, this percentage is higher.
- 34% of adults admit reaching for their cell phones at least once during sex.
- 20% of folks would rather go shoeless for a week than be without their cell phones.
- More than 50% of us never turn off our phones.
#2 – Cyberchondria
We all know about hypochondria. It involves abnormal anxiety regarding one’s health and the illnesses that might possibly be afflicting them.
Cyberchondria takes this anxiety to a whole new level.
Cyberchondria is a condition that compels individuals to research medical conditions and illnesses online, and to self-diagnose. This form of anxiety is fairly severe and rather compulsive.
According to some research, one-third of American adults have used the Internet to self-diagnose. Nothing wrong with a little healthy research. After all, we have to be our own advocates in this life. But for those with hypochondria, this can create one huge mess and a lot of stress.
Google research is accompanied by stress, an unhealthy obsession with what might be wrong, and immersion into many possible worse case scenarios. A slight abdominal pain might be correlated with some form of organ cancer. An unusual and temporary muscle weakness might be tied to some rare muscle wasting disease.
All this is nonsense, but feels real and deadly to the cyberchondriac.
The reality is this: online diagnostic tools and checkers are riddled with flaws and inaccurate assessment measures. Psychologist Mary Aiken comments,
“For a number of reasons, most medical professionals aren’t too happy about the self-diagnosis trend. It isn’t simply a matter of loss of control or an undermining of their authority through online medical searches — it can mess with the diagnostic process, because the results can suggest rare or morbid conditions to patients, which in turn can prompt the appearance of new symptoms.”
As a condition, cyberchondria first appeared in print in 2001. The UK’s Independent newspaper used the term to describe “the excessive use of Internet health sites to fuel health anxiety.”
The first study of cyberchondria was conducted in 2008, spearheaded by Microsoft.  Covering the study, the New York Times reported that the escalation and prevalence of web-based anxiety relating to medical conditions was very real.
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1) Charlie D’Agata Nomophobia: Fear of being without your cell phone. CBS News. April 3, 2008.
2) Dixit, Sanjay; Shukla, Harish; Bhagwat, AK; Bindal, Arpita; Goyal, Abhilasha; Zaidi, Aliak; Shrivastava, Akansha (2010). “A Study to Evaluate Mobile Phone Dependence Among Students of a Medical College and Associated Hospital of Central India”. Indian Journal of Community Medicine. 35 (2): 339–41. doi:10.4103/0970-0218.66878. PMC 2940198Freely accessible. PMID 20922119
3) Bivin, J. B.; Mathew, P.; Thulasi, P. C.; Philip, J. (2013). “Nomophobia – Do We Really Need to Worry About?”. Reviews of Progress. 1 (1).
4) White, Ryen W.; Horvitz, Eric (2008). “Cyberchondria: Studies of the Escalation of Medical Concerns in Web Search” (Technical Report (MSR-TR-2008-178)). Microsoft Research. Retrieved 2008-11-26.