Mobile Madness: The Rise of Digital Disorders

Woman nursing a headache

Woman nursing a headache

After close to a decade since smartphone technology began replacing traditional feature phones, some of the weird digital disorders caused by digital binges and our voracious smartphone use are finally coming home to roost. The negative effect of constant smart device use on our lives, minds and relationships, and the growing list of digital ailments have culminated in the need for digital detox camps for affected teens.

How many of the following digital disorders do you recognise?

Data glut

We have entered an era in which incomprehensibly large amounts of data can be gathered by individuals using the most basic of online tools. We’ve never had it so good for an endless supply of information. But this data plunder, perversely, makes it harder than ever to refine and contextualise data in order to make sense of the world around us. In short, data glut is the new digital menace.

Data glut is the sensation of drowning in a deluge of information, with the inability to keep one’s head above pointlessly large numbers and irrepressible streams of information. As greater amounts of information and media migrate on to our mobile phones, data glut looks set to reach pandemic levels.


There’s little debate that modern smartphones have streamlined our lives through their capacity to handle several ongoing tasks simultaneously, usually through mobile apps.  But all this multi-functionality served up by our mobiles may in fact be detrimental to our health and wellbeing, by interfering with our sleep patterns.

Multitasking, the smartphones raison d’être, has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the fight-or-flight hormone adrenaline, which can overstimulate the brain and cause mental fog or scrambled thinking.

Furthermore, multitasking creates an addictive, dopamine-fed feedback loop, which effectively rewards the brain for losing focus on a particular task in order to search for another.

All of this chemical horseplay can result in a terrible night’s kip, or a bad case of e-somnia.


Anybody who has experienced that surge of panic caused by a misplaced mobile will be wholly sympathetic to sufferers of Nomophobia, which is the very real fear of being out of mobile phone contact.

Nomophobia sufferers get skittish when they lose their mobile phone (even just momentarily), find themselves in an area with no reception, or simply run out of battery. Any scenario where they are unable to use their mobile will reduce nomophobia sufferers to a quivering mess.

Listicle fatigue

Bite-size information in the form of online lists and countdowns are quickly turning our grey matter flabby, as they deprive our brains of the mental workout of traditional, long-form written text, crucial in combating intellectual collapse. Listicle fatigue is the exhausting, mental scrambling of endless countdowns and Top Tens.


The internet is a wonderful place to hang out and idle away time, but it is absolutely terrifying should you have a low-level ailment which you decide to Google out of innate human curiosity. Even the most banal disorder can quickly escalate in your imagination into a full-blown medical emergency in just a few errant clicks.

Cyberchondria is the tendency to believe you have diseases you read about online. The Web’s immense library of horrendous medical conditions, symptoms and causes is a hypochondriac’s worst nightmare and never should the two be left alone together.

Facebook Blues

It almost seems hack to mention that social media can be extremely moreish. Ever since the social network burst all over our screens in the late noughties we have methodically and determinedly weaned ourselves onto the world of walls, tagging, poking and friending.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are now used by 1 in 4 people worldwide and in 2012, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that Facebook use may fuel anxiety and increase a person’s feeling of inadequacy.

Maybe you’ve too few friends, perhaps your witty updates aren’t landing with quite the fanfare you were hoping for, or it could be your profile picture making you nervous – whatever your self-perceived social shortcomings, Facebook et al is wont to highlight them.


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