A study recently conducted by the Mahatma Ghandi Memorial Medical College concluded that young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who routinely engage in the use of Short Messaging Services (SMS) frequently develop uneasiness, anger, and sleeplessness as a result.
“The youths in the habit of texting SMS were falling prey to depression and fear,” says Dr. Sanjay Dixit, the Head of the Department at MGMMC Community Medicine. “Nearly 47 percent of females and 39 percent of males accepted that their text messaging habit hit their daily routine in some way. Around 60 percent of youths even feel that that habit is affecting their studies.”
MGMMC’s study showed that 40 percent of females and 45 percent of males do not enjoy sound sleep due to their SMS habits. Approximately 41 percent of those surveyed admit to compulsively checking their mobile phones for a reply after sending off a text message. This OCD-like anxiety has been labeled as “Textaphrenia” by psychiatrists and is becoming a growing concern in our society of increasing communication speeds and accessibility.
“I have this weird fear when people don’t message or text me back,” says 19-year-old Tim Armstrong of Louisville. “I worry that I accidentally said something really stupid or weird on accident while I wasn’t even thinking about it.” Armstrong would not go as far as to say that he was a Textaphrenic, but increasing numbers of youths report similar phenomena when it comes to not only texting but also to receiving comments, messages, and replies on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The study shows that 55 percent of youths become upset if there is no response to their text messages, and 32 percent feel dejected and presume that no one wished to communicate with them. Approximately 93 percent of SMS users become anxious if they do not receive a response within a reasonable period of time, the appropriate period of time depending on both the receiver and the sender’s normal response speed.
Related to Textaphrenia is Textiety, which is an anxious feeling caused by not sending or receiving text messages. Textiety is observed by most on a daily basis when youths are not allowed to use their mobile phones for 30 minutes or more and will try to sneak out a quick text message, becoming noticeably antsy when unable to do so.
Psychologists stress that Textaphrenia are both serious mental and physical disorders with symptoms that include anxiety, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem, and “repetitive thumb syndrome”.
Australian researcher Jennie Carroll of Melbourne’s RMIT University has also commented on the situation. “With Textaphrenia and Textiety, there’s the feeling that ‘No one loves me; no one’s contacted me. Binge texting can either reflect the delusion that you have more friends than you actually do or can be a cry for help.” One teenager surveyed in Carroll’s own survey was averaging 444 SMS messages per day.
Data released by Boost Mobile revealed that SMS use has increased by 89% since 2009. Mobile phone use has been such a large presence in the presence of today’s youths that many now feel anxious when their phones are not physically in their hands. An increasing number of youths and even adults find texting easier and more economical than making phone calls, leading to the rise in SMS.
The immediate physical effect of Textaphrenia is a condition known as “repetitive thumb syndrome”. Similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in those who frequently type on a computer or play video games, repetitive thumb syndrome occurs to those who frequently send SMS, especially on phones without a touch screen. The repetitive motion needed to strike the buttons causes the lubricating fluid between the tendons, shoulders, and wrists to dry out.
Some people believe that Textaphrenia is a made-up condition. “Did anyone know that cocaine or marijuana were addictive until people started getting addicted to them?” Carroll counters. “Similarly, Textaphrenia is in the initial stages now. The sooner we start quitting this addiction, the better.”