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New Yorkers share the agony of phone separation anxiety

A study by the University of Missouri found

A study by the University of Missouri found that people face serious psychological and physiological effects when separated from their smartphone. Photo Credit: ISTOCK

How would you feel if you left your smartphone at home for a day?

According to a recent study by the University of Missouri, you're likely to suffer "separation anxiety" and have a harder time completing certain tasks and assignments.

Some New Yorkers, who rely on their devices for just about all of their day-to-day activities, agreed that they are mentally tethered to their gadgets.

"If I didn't have my phone, I would feel very disconnected from the world," said Thea Wittich, 27, of Hell's Kitchen.

The study involved participants completing word search puzzles while their phone was in their possession and another time when it was taken away from them. Researchers found that respondents had higher heart rates, higher blood pressure levels and lower cognitive abilities when they weren't allowed to answer their ringing phones.

City psychological and communication experts are divided on how serious of a problem this is for people.

Dr. Donna Chirico, a professor of psychology at York College, said it's hard to blame the anxiety strictly on the phones since people have always had other distractions.

"Is it the smartphone per se? If they didn't have the smartphone would they be up all night watching television instead?" she asked.

She added that the problem was probably higher among younger people who have had the technology longer in their lifetimes.

Dr. Michael Fraser, an Upper East Side psychologist who specializes in tech addiction, agreed. The trigger behind the phone separation anxiety among those younger users is the sense that their entire lives and social interactions are built into the phone.

"It used to be 30 years ago people memorized their close circle of friends' phone numbers. Now if you lost your phone book, they're in trouble," he said.

"I've got everything there. I would feel like something is missing," Yusupov said.

Cheree Ice, 25, of the South Bronx, said she doesn't feel any different when she forgets her phone at home. She said she isn't connected to social media as much as her peers.

"I've been without my phone before but I don't feel a type of anxiety," she said.

Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, said the evolution of technology to the point where it's wearable (such as a smartwatch) means that soon there won't be separation anxiety at all.

"I think what happens is it gives us more opportunities to be in touch. Now we can be in touch through texting, video im's," said Levinson.

Fraser said the best way to cope with phone separation anxiety is to learn how to "unplug."

"Put it away in a drawer and just monitor yourself," he said. "Can I watch a television show without having it in an arms reach?"


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