A 27-year-old has revealed how her phobia of being without her mobile phone, known as ‘nomophobia,’ is so severe she refuses to leave the house unless the battery is at least 60% charged.
Sara Jayne Widdowson says her fear is so extreme that if her Samsung S7 smartphone runs out of battery, or there is no reception, she has an anxiety attack, which sees her heart rate race and her palms become sweaty and shaky.
“The more phones improve, the harder it gets because there is so much more to do without,” said Widdowson of Worcester in the West Midlands.
“Now, you can email, call, text, use apps and even send out your GPS signal if you need help. If you’re without your phone, you’re cutting off all those forms of contact.”
Widdowson said her phobia has become worse since she’s had her son Corey, now two.
“I’m constantly imagining worst case scenarios and worrying something bad will happen and nobody will be able to reach me,” she said.
Widdowson, who is engaged to partner Adrian Clarke, 35, said she believes the trigger for her anxieties lies in a traumatic incident from her childhood, when she was followed home from school.
She continued: “One day, I was followed home by a man in a van. The police got involved, and nobody was ever caught, but it shook me up.
“This was in the days before mobile phones, but if I’d had one, I could have called for help.”
Widdowson, who was also bullied at school, thinks a phone may have helped then, too.
“I think life would have been easier if I’d had a phone, just so I had a way of contacting my mum Dawn or my nan Dorothy to say I needed help.”
Widdowson said getting her first ever mobile phone as a teenager made her feel instantly relieved.
Able to contact her loved ones at all times, she felt less isolated as she faced the daily barrage of cruel teasing.
But, over time, she grew increasingly dependent on her mobile, eventually developing a phobia of being without it.
Seeking help from her doctor, he suggested her anxieties could be linked to the emotional scars left by her childhood bullying.
As a result she ensures her battery registers at least 60% at all times and keeps her charger with her.
She keeps a spare charger in her car and has left several at the houses of friends and families to reassure her that she will always be able to charge her phone.
She even has a back up phone – an old Nokia – in case of emergency and favours her Samsung over an iPhone, as she believes the battery life on the popular Apple handsets is not as strong.
Poor reception is another major worry.
“We’ve just moved and the signal here isn’t as good as my old house,” she said.
“That worries me. If I’m expecting a phone call, I absolutely have to be somewhere with good reception.
“I hate it when people tell me they’ve been trying to get hold of me but couldn’t. It makes me really anxious.
“If my entire network went down, I don’t think I’d leave the house. I know it sounds dramatic, but I wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy myself if I knew I was totally unreachable.”
Widdowson’s main worry is that something would happen to her or a family member and she wouldn’t be able to seek help.
Although her phone has only died on a few occasions when there’s been an urgent situation – once when she fell in the street, and once when she missed a train her mum was expecting her to get – she lives in near constant fear of it happening again.
“I take my phone everywhere, even to the loo,” she said. “I keep it in my bra rather than a bag because I worry my bag could get stolen.
“A lot of my family and friends don’t know about my phobia, but they joke about how I can’t be without my phone.
“I can’t see myself getting better, either.
“As a society, we’re so dependant on phones.
“Realistically, we don’t actually need them, but they’re everything to people now, and I don’t think that will change.”