What is the fear of missing out? | Causes and remedies

by | Jul 4, 2023

Addicted to social media, amped up depression and anxiety – you browsed for help. And, bingo, you found an article on the fear of missing out. Now it’s on to causes and remedies…

’Life’s greatest joys are often found in the simplest of moments shared with people who truly know and love us.’

You see an image of friends having a good time together and it begins to sink in that you’re not part of the fun.

Continuing to stare at the screen, you’re falling into what psychiatrist Dr. Rashmi Parmar calls the “sticky trap” of the fear of missing out: FOMO.

Background

We started a two-part series last week on the fear of missing out. Most all of the content comes from the Psychiatric Times article “Understanding the fear of missing out,” written by Dr. Parmar.

Quick definition of FOMO: a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.

FOMO is most often associated with social media; however, it’s not an exclusive arrangement.

Much more on FOMO in part one. Now to causes and remedies…

What causes the fear of missing out?

Like most everything we talk about, the bottom-line cause of FOMO is unknown. Yep, we’re dealing with the brain. That means we’ll be turning to risk factors and theory for some answers.

Risk factors

Let’s see: low self-esteem, loneliness, fear of social exclusion, anxiety, depression, risky behaviors, problematic smart phone use, fear of negative and positive evaluation, lower sense of having social needs met, general feeling of dissatisfaction with life.

They’re all risk factors for FOMO. Gender and age don’t appear to be in the equation.

Theories

Way down deep in our minds, what could be generating or contributing to FOMO? Dr. Parmar shares three interesting theories. See what you think…

  • Self-determination: Suggests that we’re motivated by three innate psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When they’re met, our self-motivation and mental health thrive. When they aren’t, our motivation and sense of well-being head south.
  • Too many choices: Having tons of options is great, at least until we start obsessing over whether we made the right choice. Did our selection make us miss out on something else? Psychologist Barry Schwartz: “Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still – perhaps too hard.”
  • Cybernetic process model: Cybernetics is about control and communication. For any given situation, our brains are constantly sizing up options and comparing them to our goals or expectations. When the dots don’t connect, we may feel uncomfortable. FOMO can distort this process and make it harder to accurately evaluate the current situation. We may end up pursuing lesser and unhealthier priorities, instead of those that are necessary for our personal goals. When that happens, nothing matches up, we’re buried in doubt, and we end up following everyone else.

“Pervasive” isn’t in the definition for nothing. FOMO runs deep.

How do you manage the fear of missing out?

what causes the fear of missing out

“Yes, I have FOMO. I accept it. Now I gotta’ make some changes.”

Okay, we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re dealing with FOMO. Can’t pop a pill, so what are we going to do about it?

Before we get to the goods, here’s a quick splash of reality. Be it FOMO or any other emotional or mental condition, nothing will ever change without acceptance.

Why would it if we don’t buy-in to what ails us?

Now to Dr. Parmar’s advice…

  • Set a daily limit for social media time. One study indicated that limiting social media to 30 minutes a day significantly reduced FOMO and anxiety, and increased overall well-being.
  • Hit snooze. If images and accompanying content are pushing your buttons, pause or remove social media apps for a while.
  • Tidy up your feed every so often. Review who and what you follow, asking yourself how they make you feel. If it’s not so hot, let them go.
  • Engage with friends in person. It may not be easy at first, but nobody has to tell you that social media will never replace the warmth and spontaneity of human contact.
  • Get to know your FOMO and what triggers it. Confront your insecurities, accept them, and adapt.
  • What’s important to you? Use the answers to establish life goals.
  • Do your best to keep your emotions from determining your behavior.
  • Keep a journal to identify and examine unhelpful feelings.
  • Remind yourself that even if people are always smiling, you never know what challenges they’re experiencing.
  • Actively organize activities that make you happy with the people you enjoy. Why wait for an invitation?
  • Make it a point to recognize and appreciate JOMO – the joy of missing out. Focus on contentment and satisfaction with who you are. Other actions include adopting a JOMO approach by focusing on contentment and satisfaction with who you are.
  • Practice gratitude to shift the focus from what you don’t have to what you do.
  • Practice mindfulness daily through meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises. It’ll keep you grounded in the present moment.
  • Find joy in the simple things in life.
  • Adopt a practical and problem-solving approach to FOMO. Be prepared by coming up with strategies to deal with challenging situations.

If you’re living with FOMO, can you make them work for you? How ‘bout some of your own?

From Dr. Parmar

Happiness does not come from comparing ourselves, chasing perceived expectations, or even feeling superior to others. It is not the quantity but the quality of experiences that matters. Life’s greatest joys are often found in the simplest of moments shared with people who truly know and love us.

Nice, doc. Thank you.

Acceptance and action

Very few of us like the feeling of missing out. But when not liking turns into fear, it’s time to take a long hard look.

And if FOMO is staring back at us, acceptance and action are the only remedies.

For much more on the dangers of social media: “Social media and youth mental health: An advisory” and “The truth about social media and teenage suicide: The Molly Russell story

If you haven’t already, be sure to read part one: “What is the fear of missing out?

Dr. Parmar’s article on Psychiatric Times: “Understanding the Fear of Missing Out” Dr. Parmar is a psychiatrist at Mindpath Health.

If you’d like to read even more Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles, I’m in. Just scan the titles.

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