Explainer: Phantom Vibration Syndrome

Imagine you’re going about your day as normal when you feel your phone vibrating in your pocket. You reach down to retrieve it and discover that it isn’t even there. If you spend a large part of your day with your phone in your pocket, the odds are you’ve experienced it. It’s called Phantom Vibration Syndrome and you’re most certainly not alone. Some studies suggest as much as 89% of the population experiences it.

It is sometimes described as a hallucination, but that isn’t really accurate. Though scientists have not yet come up with a definitive answer, it is most likely caused by the brain becoming conditioned to look for that signal from the part of the body and react to it. This makes it more likely that it will confuse a brush of fabric, an itch, or a small muscle spasm for the vibration of an incoming call or text.

Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about, as there is no evidence of any adverse effects. It is really more a symptom of our increasing dependence on technology than it is a problem in of it itself.

If you do find it particularly bothersome however, it is pretty easy to fix. The most obvious solution is to stop using your phone so much, though that’s not really practical for most people. Instead, try turning off the phone’s vibration function. Usually, the brain will revert back to normal in about a week and that should be the end of that. At least until you start experiencing it on your wrist thanks to your shiny new Apple Watch…

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