“I have lost my phone,” I told my wife after filling out the hospital registration form, clutching my pant pockets and with panic in my voice.

One moment I was a relatively normal guy, though a little anxious since we were in a hospital, and the next moment, a blabbering, wide-eyed wreck who was undergoing separation anxiety.

The night before I had researched carefully what blood tests I needed to get done and had discarded the stress test which was part of the health check-up package.

“Rupees 5,200 (about Dh300) for the package? No way. It’s a rip-off,” I said. They [doctors, nurses and the medical technician] would attach sensors to my chest and make me run on the treadmill. “I just need an ECG.”

I also nixed a thyroid test, also known in medical parlance as TSH. A doctor in Dubai had told me that most of tests done (for The Executive Check-up) are unnecessary and expensive. “If you have any symptoms, first talk to your GP,” she had said.

One moment I was looking up my passport number on the phone, and the next it had disappeared. I looked around wildly and expecting to sprint after someone leaving the hospital quickly while looking down at my phone in his hand.

It was not just a phone, but my whole life. It had all the passwords to various social media, from Twitter to LinkedIn, my bank details, my pictures, and I had not set up the phone’s remote tracking and controlling service like my son had warned me to.

“I will have to file a complaint to security,” I told my wife.

“Your phone is under the form,” she said calmly. As I reached for it, my heart would not stop fluttering fast. I had lost an expensive pen and headphones once, but the sense of loss was not this crazy.

Extended self

When I left my workplace after working there for 10 long years, the phone calls stopped, nobody knew I existed, except for the friendly person from the call centre of my former bank, asking whether I would wish to top up my loan.

The only way I could feel that I was once again a part of society was through social media, and without a phone I was a nobody. Psychologists have coined a new term for this phone separation anxiety or fear and have called it No-Mobile phobia or NoMo for short.

A study has shown that people see smartphones as their extended selves and get attached to the devices, says a doctor. People feel anxious and unpleasant when separated from their phones, he adds. Another study shows that your heartbeat and blood pressure will rise if you are separated from your smartphone, even briefly.

The phone’s battery also plays a big part in your life. Every time it goes dead, I go begging to people sitting behind computer screens to please recharge it. I did the same thing when I was addicted to cigarettes. When I ran out of my daily quota of smokes, I would accost total strangers on the streets for a drag.

How can you tell if you are addicted to your phone?

If the first thing you reach out as you wake up is your smartphone, then you are in trouble.

According to helpguide.org website, these are the other signs:

1. You cannot finish tasks because you are constantly checking your smartphone

2. Dread, anxiety engulfs you if you forget your phone at home

3. You have a feeling of missing out if you do not check your phone regularly

4. If you text or talk on your phone when driving

5. You get irritated when someone interrupts your online time.

If these are your symptoms, it is time that you get some help.

Mahmood Saberi (@mahmood_saberi) is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India.