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‘Nomophobia’: Is cellphone addiction real?

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(PIX11) -- Researchers call it "nomophobia." It's the fear of being without your phone. Some have proposed putting it in the DSM, the standard manual used by scores of psychologists to diagnose mental disorders.

Group therapy for nomophobia is already being offered at one rehabilitation center in Irvine, Calif., called Morningside Recovery.

One study found that 12 percent of participants use their smartphone in the shower. Another found that 1 in 5 young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 have used their smartphones while having sex. Nine percent of adults of all ages responded they've done it, too.

Meanwhile, research has also shown that too much time on our smartphones could be negatively impacting our relationships with our partner or spouse. A study in the U.K. found that people are now spending more time on smartphones each day than with their partner: 119 minutes of phone time versus 97 minutes with a significant other.

"I have to charge it three times a day," Liz Bevan said of her phone.

"All day playing the games," said Lee Williams, who carries two phones.

Psychologists say signs of nomophobia include:

  • Frequently checking your phone
  • Using it in inappropriate places
  • Having more than one phone
  • Carrying a charger and constantly checking the phone's battery life

Researchers say nomophobia is most common among young women, and basic treatment is being developed. A team of entrepreneurs have developed a solution that they say is working for some -- the NoPhone. It's essentially a block of plastic, but it looks and feels like a smartphone in your hand or pocket.

"You pull it out, you try to use it and it doesn't work," NoPhone co-creator Van Gould said. "It's a piece of plastic, and you can go on and have a conversation with whomever you are hanging out with."

He says many have purchased the NoPhone as a gag gift, but that some have expressed a sincere interest in decreasing their smartphone use, using the NoPhone as a decoy. A Kickstarter campaign for the NoPhone raised more than $18,000 last year, surpassing their fundraising goal of $5,000. Gould says he and his partners used the cash to form an LLC, and they've sold thousands of NoPhones.

Addiction specialist Dr. Harris Stratyner says nomophobia is a legitimate disorder, but he adds: "At the same time, after a while, I think we could call everything a disorder."

So how much time on your smartphone is too much?

"I think a better question is to ask yourself: How long do you want to let a gadget interrupt your current moment?" Stratyner said. "How much do you want to let an object rule you?"