The Psychology Behind Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) – Forbes Health

A sense of belonging is a basic human need. A study of teenage girls called this need “social hunger.” This language highlights how important the need to belong can be for some and why the experience of FOMO can affect some people so negatively. Feeling socially connected (the opposite of FOMO) has even been linked to a longer, healthier life.

How can feeling connected have such a big impact on our health? Researchers say this is because feeling connected to others leads to feeling less stressed, which supports both the nervous system and the immune system. Conversely, feeling FOMO affects the brain in the same way as other anxiety conditions by activating a “fight or flight” response, says Dr. Dattilo. “The brain perceives a threat, a social threat in this case, and puts us on high alert. Our nervous system gets agitated, and then we become uncomfortable and motivated to find relief,” she continues.

This need for relief often drives people straight to their favorite social media apps. “Unfortunately, by seeking relief in this way, we only maintain or even reinforce the anxiety that triggered it in the first place,” says Dr. Dattilo.

FOMO has also been linked to mental health issues. The FOMO experience may be associated with depression, feelings of stress, and decreased life satisfaction.

Who is most affected by FOMO?

When it comes to an actual age range, teenagers and young people are more at risk of experiencing FOMO. “Young people are significantly more at risk due to increased time spent online, coupled with heightened sensitivity and need for social approval and belonging,” says Dr Dattilo.

However, young people are not the only ones affected by FOMO. Since the fear of missing out is often linked to social media, Dr. Vogel explains that any avid social media user is at greater risk of experiencing FOMO than people who don’t use social media much. “Using social media is likely to cause us to experience FOMO because we see the ‘highlights’ of other people’s lives,” she says. “It’s also likely that people who are highly invested in their social relationships are more drawn to social media and more likely to experience FOMO.” At this point, a small 2017 study found that extroverts may be more likely to overuse social media than introverts.

People living with social anxiety are also at risk, notes Dr. Dattilo. Indeed, she explains, they are more likely to avoid social situations and rely more on social media to connect and lessen feelings of loneliness.

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