Sometimes I feel my cell phone vibrating in my pocket, but when I check, it’s not vibrating. Sometimes there isn’t even a phone in that pocket.

I’m not alone. In fact, it is common enough to now have a name – phantom vibration syndrome (PVS). Who knew?

Several studies have found that this sensory hallucination is fairly common with people carrying cell phones when the device is not vibrating.

Martin Lindstrom theorizes that it is caused by “mirror neurons” in a similar way to the way they are activated when a smoker sees another smoker lighting up. Our “Monkey See, Monkey Do” neurons are a built-in mechanism that connects us to the empathy emotion. He says it partly explains the popularity of sports and pornography and activities that go beyond observing because in our brains we’re actually participating.

Cast your mind back to the last time you spent casually chatting around a table with a group of friends. Think about what happens when one or another checks their messages. In a matter of moments, a few others in the group will feel around for their phones and check their screens too. If you were to ask them what prompted them to check at that particular moment, they’d have no idea. And, without any solid scientific evidence to back my claim, I’d venture to say it was caused by the activation of the Mirror Neurons. Monkey saw, and monkey did.

Some people explain it as simply “vibranxiety,” a kind of side effect of stress that might work in conjunction with a minor thigh spasm or shift in the materials of your pants to signal a vibration.

So, a question is whether or not the phantom vibrations have physical roots or are caused by nerve damage, muscle memory or are psychologically based.

If you want a psychological explanation, then “hypothesis-guided search” is a theory that describes the selective monitoring of physical sensations, so that when cellphone users are alert to vibrations, they are likely to experience sporadic false alarms.

Another way to explain the vibrations is neuroplasticity which is the brain’s ability to form new connections in response to changes in the environment. After months and years of real vibrating, brains become wired to those sensations.

I think it’s not as bad as phantom ringing where it’s not just vibrations but hearing the phone ringing when it’s not ringing.

And there are other cell phone syndromes…

In 2008, U.S. News & World Report wrote about “Blackberry Thumb”  which had hand therapists commenting a new thumb injury from typing away on small phone keyboards of our phones.

Another blogger has identified three more cell phone maladies. One is “Touch Screen Illusion Syndrome” where you try to swipe the screen on your desktop computer or TV screen.

There is also “Uncontrollable Status Checking Disorder” that leads you to use any down time (measured in mere minutes) as an opportunity to check your status for any new emails, text messages, or missed calls. And finally, there is “No New Message Depression” that comes from the realization that “no one has thought about you or needed your opinion in the past 30 seconds.”

And we thought that danger with cell phones was going to be from radiation causing low sperm counts or even cancer

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