Your iPhone Separation Anxiety Is A Real Thing

Image via Flickr/ Kārlis Dambrāns

Do you feel anxious when your phone isn’t around? Do you start to sweat and squirm when it rings but you can’t answer it? It’s not all in your head; according to a recent study from the University of Missouri, iPhone separation anxiety has a negative impact on cognitive tasks. In other words, people are so worried about being away from their phones that they show physical and mental symptoms.

The study, led by doctoral candidate Russell Clayton of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, examined 40 iPhone users who were assigned word search puzzles. The researchers discovered that performance — in this case, the number of words found in the puzzles — decreased as compared to users who were in possession of their phones when completing the puzzles. In addition, “when iPhone users were unable to answer their ringing iPhone during a word search puzzle, heart rate and blood pressure increased, self-reported feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness increased and self-reported extended self and cognition decreased.”

This means that not only does iPhone separation lead to a decreased ability to carry out mental tasks, it also affects people’s sense of self.

The results from our study suggest that iPhones are capable of becoming an extension of our selves such that when separated, we experience a lessening of ‘self’ and a negative physiological state,” said Clayton in a University of Missouri press release.

Results were recorded both by self-reporting feelings of anxiety and “unpleasantness” and by using wireless blood pressure cuffs to record blood pressure and heart rate. During the study, participants completed puzzles with their phones nearby, then were told that the phones were being taken away due to “Bluetooth interference” with the blood pressure cuffs. While the second puzzle was being completed, the researchers called the phones after they were out of reach.

The study’s authors note that “cell phone attachment and dependency gives users the impression that they are constantly connected to the world and therefore feel less alone.” So what is an anxious, dependent smartphone user to do? Probably just keep your phone with you at all times, say the researchers. If you’re doing something that requires your full attention, it’s better not to have the distraction of worrying about your precious phone and your inability to answer it. Just like your favorite blanket or teddy bear when you were a kid, your iPhone will soothe your desperate loneliness and fear (or at least some of it).