Nomophobia: New insights into the psychological factors that influence telephone separation anxiety

A new study provides insight into the factors that influence the fear of disconnecting from your cell phone, also known as nomophobia. An important finding was that improved interpersonal problem-solving skills equated to a decrease in nomophobia. Furthermore, emotional intelligence has been found to be related to stronger interpersonal problem-solving skills and lower stress. This study was published in Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science.

Cell phones are ubiquitous and the use of this technology is deeply rooted in our daily routines. Inevitably, modern psychological conditions have emerged, one of which is called nomophobia (no cell phone phobia), which describes the discomfort or fear that individuals experience from being away from their cell phone for long periods.

Published literature has primarily focused on how factors such as academic performance, loneliness, and attention are related to nomophobia. In the current study, the team led by Fatma Gizem Karaoglan Yilmaz of Bartin University in Turkey continued to expand on this.

A theoretical framework was initially presented by the researchers that outlined the relationship between nomophobia, emotional intelligence, interpersonal problem solving, perceived stress and self-esteem.

They proposed that individuals with nomophobia tend to feel stressed by the uncertainty and lack of control that comes from the inability to communicate and the loss of connection without their phones. Furthermore, individuals with high self-esteem are often skilled at social interaction, while individuals with nomophobia may have low self-esteem and find it difficult to generate connections with others, further contributing to stress.

Yilmaz and colleagues also proposed that high emotional intelligence, that is, a strong ability to understand and manage emotions, can prevent the development of nomophobia and subsequently reduce the stress that would be associated with the disorder.

Finally, individuals with strong interpersonal problem-solving skills are likely able to manage their emotions (i.e., have high emotional intelligence) to mentally solve the problems they encounter. The authors suggested that individuals with nomophobia have difficulty forming interpersonal relationships and therefore have difficulty managing stress.

Therefore, this research aimed to explore the accuracy of this complex hypothetical structure in undergraduate students.

Data was collected from 543 undergraduate students (57% women, 43% men) who volunteered to participate in the online survey. Questionnaires were employed to measure these five factors of interest – nomophobia, emotional intelligence, interpersonal problem solving, perceived stress and self-esteem.

A statistical tool called path analysis was employed, which allowed Yilmaz and colleagues to unravel the connections between the five factors to understand how they work together and influence each other, and ultimately came to some important conclusions.

Contrary to what the authors initially believed, emotional intelligence did not have a direct effect on nomophobia.

An increase in emotional intelligence was found to increase interpersonal problem-solving skills, and this was the strongest association found among all the associations analyzed. In other words, individuals who better understand their emotions tend to be better at resolving interpersonal challenges. The researchers also found that as interpersonal problem solving increased, there was a decrease in nomophobia.

Furthermore, an increase in interpersonal problem solving would lead to a decrease in perceived stress. “When interpersonal problem-solving skills are examined, it shows that communication between people is important. It is known that nomophobic individuals have difficulties with social communication”, explain the authors.

“In addition, solving interpersonal problems is also [known] as a solution to social problems. [Individuals] Those who face these difficulties experience high levels of stress. It can be said that individuals who are successful in solving interpersonal problems can also be successful in communicating in their social life. In this situation, they are good at managing the source of stress.”

Furthermore, an increase in emotional intelligence would also lead to a decrease in perceived stress. Yilmaz and colleagues concluded that individuals who cannot use their emotional intelligence actively and effectively are unable to appropriately direct their emotions in crises. However, nomophobia did not directly affect perceived stress.

Finally, an increase in perceived stress led to a decrease in self-esteem. In cases of excessive use of technology, people have low self-esteem and their perceived stress levels can increase due to this use. Since individuals with low self-esteem have difficulty interacting socially, they may become more dependent on technology, which can negatively impact their ability to deal with stress.

Although this study provides valuable information about the complex relationship between nomophobia and various psychological factors, limitations must be considered. For example, the research focused on undergraduate students, restricting generalization to an older population and individuals in the job market.

The study, The Relationship Between Nomophobia, Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Problem Solving, Perceived Stress, and Self-Esteem Among Undergraduate Students, was authored by Fatma Gizem Karaoglan Yilmaz, Ramazan Yilmaz, and Fatih Erdogdu.

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