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Phantom Cell Phone Vibration Syndrome

By HERWriter
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Skin, Hair & Nails related image Photo: Getty Images

Have you ever felt your cell phone vibrate when it actually hadn’t vibrated at all? This sensation has been experienced by quite a number of people and has been coined phantom vibration syndrome. Frequent use of the vibrate mode on cell phones and pagers has increased the frequency of this sensory occurrence. What causes this crazy phenomenon and is there a way to stop it from happening?

At Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, 176 medical staff were surveyed through questionnaires about their cell phone and beeper use. Almost 70 percent of the respondents had experienced phantom vibrations from both these communication devices. The majority began experiencing phantom vibrations after one month to one year of carrying them, however 23 percent did not experience them until after one year of use. Most experienced phantom vibration either weekly or monthly but a small percent felt them every day. The most common location to feel the vibration was when the device was in the breast pocket.

The majority of people experiencing phantom vibration were medical students and residents versus nurses or attending physicians who are not called as frequently for patient problems. It occurred more to those who kept their electronic devices in vibrate mode most of the time. There was no significant difference between men and women. For the most part, the phantom vibration annoyed only 2 percent of the respondents, but 61 percent had tried techniques to stop them.

Those who were successful in stopping phantom vibrations did so by moving the devices to another location--for example, from the belt to the back pocket--and they stopped using the device in vibrate mode. Very few tried to change to another brand of device though that has been reported anecdotally as being helpful; different types of electronic devices vibrate differently.

Phantom vibrations have been characterized as tactile hallucinations. The brain perceives a sensation that is not there.

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I too thought it was an interesting topic. One of the articles I researched also explained a similar phenomenon I frequently experience in the shower. The running water often creates a pitch that makes me think the phone is ringing. The tone coming from the faucet apparently makes the brain think that the sound is the phone because that is what one expects to be happening when that sound is heard.

January 10, 2011 - 8:07pm

Very interesting topic!

January 10, 2011 - 11:41am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.