What is technophobia?
Technophobia is an extreme fear of technology. People with technophobia may fear the power of artificial intelligence, robots or computers.
Technophobia is more than resistance to learning new technology. Rather, people with the condition may obsess over technology. Or, they may go to great lengths to avoid incorporating technology into their lives.
Is technophobia a mental illness?
Technophobia is not a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Still, as technology has expanded rapidly in recent years, some clinicians treat technophobia like a specific phobia. Specific phobias are irrational fears of a particular situation, object, animal or interaction. The fear isn’t in proportion to the actual danger.
Who might get technophobia?
Anyone can feel afraid of or reluctant to use new technology. When the fear interferes with your life, it may be technophobia.
Adults and especially seniors are more likely to develop technophobia. You are also more likely to develop technophobia if you have another mental health diagnosis, such as an anxiety disorder.
How common is technophobia?
Experts don’t know exactly how many people have technophobia. But it's more common in older adults.
Many people refuse to use technology as they age. One study found that the portion of older adults who use the Internet includes:
- 60% of adults ages 55 to 59.
- 45% of adults ages 60 to 64.
- 25% of adults ages 65 to 74.
- 6% of adults ages 74 and older.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes technophobia?
There isn’t a single cause of technophobia. Factors that can contribute to technophobia include:
- General anxiety about the future.
- Mass hysteria about technology unknowns, such as the Y2K scare.
- Media that portrays “doomsday scenarios” where technology goes wrong or overpowers humans.
What are the symptoms of technophobia?
Someone with technophobia might feel preoccupied with thoughts of being forced to use technology. They may:
- Avoid getting a new computer or phone.
- Criticize new technology or changes.
- Refuse to use computers, ATMs or card readers.
- Resist upgrading a device’s software.
- Resist using any automatic processes, such as automatic withdrawals to pay bills.
Sometimes, people with specific phobias experience extreme physical anxiety symptoms. These signs may include:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is technophobia diagnosed?
Although technophobia isn't a formal diagnosis, your healthcare provider may treat it like a specific phobia. Your healthcare provider may ask questions to determine whether the fear of technology interferes with your life. They may ask:
- What symptoms do you experience?
- Does a fear of technology cause conflict in your relationships?
- How long has the fear of technology lasted?
- Do you go to great lengths to avoid interacting with technology?
Management and Treatment
How is technophobia treated?
Technophobia treatment may be similar to treatment for other specific phobias. These treatments can help:
- Exposure therapy involves slowly familiarizing yourself with the object of your fear. First, you may visualize using technology. Then you may work your way up to using it in real life. Exposure therapy is one of the most effective phobia treatments. It may be the only treatment you need.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is talking with a therapist about symptoms and feelings. The therapist helps you identify which thought processes are irrational or untrue. Through CBT, you learn to replace untrue thoughts with more rational ones.
- Medication may be helpful if you have extreme anxiety or experience panic attacks.
How can I reduce my risk of technophobia?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent technophobia. It’s common to resist adapting to technology, especially as you get older.
If you are naturally anxious or have a mental health diagnosis, seek treatment. Getting treatment for underlying conditions may reduce your risk of developing technophobia.
Outlook / Prognosis
What is the outlook for people with technophobia?
Many people can overcome technophobia with treatment. Dealing with technophobia is crucial. Refusing to adapt to changing technology can reduce the quality of life, mental health and independence, especially in older adults.
How can I best learn to cope with a fear of technology?
Most people get frustrated with technology now and then. But that frustration doesn’t need to prevent you from using technology. To reduce fear and make technology transitions smoother, you can:
- Ask for help from a family member, friend or coworker.
- Call in experts, such as hiring a professional trainer or taking devices to repair shops.
- Focus on one task or device at a time.
- Take your time and don’t feel pressure to learn every new technology at once.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Technophobia is the irrational fear of technology. Although it's not a clinical diagnosis, some people think of it as a specific phobia. People with technophobia may feel irrationally afraid of computers, robots or artificial intelligence. This fear keeps them from adapting to new technology, such as using a mobile phone or computer. It may also keep them from using ATMs or paying with credit cards. With treatment, many people can overcome technophobia.
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