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Phantom Vibration Syndrome: Hallucinations of a Phone Ringing

Phantom vibration syndrome is when a person feels that their phone is buzzing when it is not. / Photo by: Kitja Kitja via Shutterstock

 

Smartphones have become a part of people's bodies, as stated by a study published in the Human in the Computers in Human Behavior journal. It has become a necessity, not only to have it but to also bring it wherever one goes. It must also be kept easily accessible and close by, so close that it is only a pocket away.

When placed inside the pocket, there are times when a person may feel as if their phone is buzzing even when it is not. Getting the sensation that the phone is ringing can occur at any time and an individual may think that their phone actually did vibrate. However, there are times when they take their phone out, they didn't find any calls, texts or social media notifications that they were expecting to see on their screen. It may be hard to believe that the vibration was just a hallucination when it seemed real. This phenomenon is known as the Phantom Vibration Syndrome. Exploringyourmind.com describes this as “an irrefutable example of how technology has invaded the human psyche". Researchers say that approximately 80% of people around the world have experienced it.

Phantom Vibration Syndrome Definition

According to Telangana Today, Phantom Vibration Syndrome is “the perception that one’s mobile phone is ringing when it is not ringing”. It is also called phantom ringing syndrome, phonetom, ringxiety, and fauxecellarm. This occurrence is not labeled as something pathological on its own, but if it is combined with problematic behaviors. Examples of problematic behavioral patterns that may go with Phantom Vibration Syndrome are being too engrossed in technology and being too reliant on it.  

What Causes It?

Here are the explanations for why individuals may experience the Phantom Vibration Syndrome:

Learned bodily habits

Dr. Robert Rosenberger, an assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, attributes it to “learned bodily habits”. In his study titled An Experiential Account of Phantom Vibration Syndrome, he explains that by putting the phone in one’s pocket, it may feel like a body part that is left unnoticed. Similar to the act when an individual habitually puts on glasses, they may have the tendency to forget that they put the phone in their pocket in the first place.

Furthermore, Dr. Rosenberger clarifies, “People then perceive other sensations such as movement of clothing of muscle spasms as vibrations for your mobile, but it’s just a hallucination.”

Expecting the Desired Outcome

The human brain is wired to respond to sensory stimuli. This means that when the brain detects a particular stimulus, the senses give off the appropriate signals related to the stimulus. After that, the brain reacts. An illustration of this is when someone hears the sound of their fire alarm, they can tell that something in the house is burning.

In the same way, Phantom Vibration Syndrome is a response to a stimulus, even if it is nonexistent. This is a sign that someone is waiting for a desired outcome. In this case, the stimulus that an individual wants is a form of communication or a call. Since they can be so overcome by this desire, their brain may create a fake stimulus. Oftentimes, this stems from wanting to always be connected. For example, someone may be anticipating a call from their lover and they would not want to miss it. Another some people are so glued to their phones or characterized as “hyper-connected” that their phone basically becomes their life.

Problems Connected to Phone Vibration Syndrome

Sometimes, Phone Vibration Syndrome can be an indicator that someone is having physical and mental health issues. Studies have shown that this may be liked to attachment anxiety and insomnia which are defined below:

Attachment anxiety

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan points to evidence that attachment anxiety is indeed connected to Phone Vibration Syndrome. After being able to perform an experiment on the 400 participants they recruited, they discovered that individuals who suffered from attachment anxiety were prone to experiencing the syndrome. Attachment anxiety is expounded as “the constant need for affirmation from others.”

Insomnia

Researchers from the Dow International Medical College have found another disturbing condition associated with the syndrome. The results of their study show that individuals who are affected by insomnia have a higher probability of having vibration hallucinations.

Both problems are noted to be related to anxiety.

 

Problems like insomnia is connected to Phone vibrations syndrome. / Photo by: Sam Wordley via Shutterstock

 

Implications of Phone Vibration Syndrome

As mentioned earlier, by itself, Phone Vibration Syndrome is not pathological. In some instances, it can even be considered an adaptive behavior. This is true for people who always stay on alert so that they can perform their tasks effectively, like those who are involved in high-risk jobs and health professionals.

The only time a person should be concerned about it is when it becomes a source of anxiety. If experiencing this makes them mad or upset, it is advised that they reflect on what is causing them to hallucinate about their phone ringing.

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