Phantom vibration syndrome

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Phantom vibration syndrome or phantom ringing is the sensation and false belief that one's mobile phone is vibrating or ringing, when in fact the telephone is not doing so.

Other terms for this concept include ringxiety (a portmanteau of ring and anxiety), hypovibrochondria (a mix of hypochondria and vibro) and fauxcellarm (a play on "false alarm").[1]

Phantom ringing may be experienced while taking a shower, watching television, or using a noisy device. Humans are particularly sensitive to auditory tones between 1,000 and 6,000 hertz,[1] and basic mobile phone ringers often fall within this range. This frequency range can generally be more difficult to locate spatially,[2] thus allowing for potential confusion when heard from a distance. False vibrations are less well understood however, and could have psychological or neurological sources. Some liken this effect to be similar to conditioning, like Pavlov's experiment on dogs. Researcher Michelle Drouin found that almost 9 of 10 undergraduates at her college experienced phantom vibrations.[3]


In the comic strip "Dilbert", cartoonist Scott Adams referenced such a sensation in 1996 as "phantom-pager syndrome."[4]

The earliest published use of the term "phantom vibration syndrome" dates back to 2003 in an article entitled "Phantom Vibration Syndrome" published in the New Pittsburgh Courier, written under a pen name of columnist Robert D. Jones. In the conclusion of the article, Jones wrote, "...should we be concerned about what our mind or body may be trying to tell us by the aggravating imaginary emanations from belts, pockets and even purses? Whether PVS is the result of physical nerve damage, a mental health issue, or both, this growing phenomenon seems to indicate that we may have crossed a line in this 'always on' society."[this quote needs a citation]

Nearly a decade later, the term had made its way to Australia as Macquarie Dictionary’s 2012's "Word of the Year".[5][6]


The phantom phone, or phantom ring psychologically, could be compared to something such as the "naked" feeling experienced when not wearing a pair of prescription glasses or other item.[7]

Some doorbells or telephone ring sounds are modeled after pleasant sounds from nature. This backfires when such devices are used in rural areas containing the original sounds—the owner is faced with the constant task of determining if it is the device or the actual sound.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Goodman, Brenda (4 May 2006). "I Hear Ringing and There's No One There. I Wonder Why.". The New York Times. p. 1. 
  2. ^ Hearing range#Humans
  3. ^ Larry Rosen, Ph.D (May 7, 2013). "Phantom Pocket Vibration Syndrome". Psychology Today. Retrieved September 10, 2014. ...According to Dr. Michelle Drouin... 89% of the undergraduates in her study had experienced these phantom vibrations... 
  4. ^ Adams, Scott (September 16, 1996). "Dilbert". Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  5. ^ Wilson, Aidan (February 7, 2013). "Phantom vibration syndrome: Word of the Year". Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ Meacham, Merle. "Macquarie Dictonary word of the year archives". Retrieved March 18, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Cell-Phone Junkies Feel Phantom Ring Vibrations". Fox News. 12 October 2007. 
  8. ^ Jacobson, Dan (June 15, 2001). "The Risks Digest Volume 21: Issue 49". Retrieved September 4, 2011. 

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