Causes of Phantom Vibration Syndrome

PVS or ‘Phantom vibration syndrome,’ or the perception of vibrations emitting from a device that is not really vibrating, has become a recently discussed psychological phenomenon since the media and medical community introduced documentation and quantitative studies on the problem. Most recognition of the syndrome started in earnest and spread throughout the World Wide Web starting in 2010. In 2012 Phantom Vibration Syndrome was chosen as one of the “Words of The Year” and shortly after one early clinical study and questionnaire sampling involving a very small test group of young university student selection established that almost 9 out of 10 of the students had experienced what researchers identified as phantom vibrations. While this study also concluded that the students invariable were not overtly bothered by these imagined physical derangement there was a common thread that the occurrence frequency was on average once every 14 days with higher frequencies up to twice per day being reported on the high event scale. This rather simple study let to researchers suggesting that there was a correlation between the emotional reactions of the participants to signals such as emotional fluctuations due to the reception and reading of text messages on their phone or the current emotional baggage or psychological turmoil the subject was experiencing.

What causes phantom vibration syndrome? – Researchers, psychologists and clinical university funded studies have elaborated and presented numerous hypotheses regarding a specific cause or combination of factors that cause phantom vibration syndrome. Many of these scholars as well as laypeople in the fields of addictions and psychology believe that the brain becomes acutely conditioned to hearing and expect frequent rings or vibrations from a phone or device, that the very neural transmission paths that are activated when a phone is actually ringing falsely ignite and activate with activity even when the phone isn’t ringing. Sufferers of the phantom vibration syndrome have become so accustomed to feeling and hearing their phone vibrate and ring with the arrival of calls or text messages or tweets or Facebook update alerts, that their brain expects more of these neural bursts and falsely sends signals. Unable to differentiate between the false neural stimuli and a true neural stimuli the only way a sufferer can know for sure is to verify the phone and this is when they see that no input transmission has been received and they have felt a phantom vibration or impulse twitch.

There have been several contributing factors recognized as potential causes of the phenomenon of PVS which include the average number of vibrations or rings the patient receives on a daily basis which will create a conditioning in the patient to regularly feel vibrations from their phone. The volume and intensity of the phone and vibration setting of the phone will also impact the actual physical conditioning of the sufferer; frequent long vibrations that occur at regular intervals will condition the patient to be ready to receive a call or alert and the brain will be expecting the “hit” and will create synaptic expectations which manifest themselves as a tactile hallucination.

The brain chemistry of the subject is also a factor in the equation as incidence of depression, compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and addictive traits will also cause phone users to have heightened or exaggerated experiences of phantom ringing.

Adding to the formula for diagnosis would also be the amount of time the patient has been using their phone and the average time they spend on the phone and the number of incoming alerts and phone calls are received and the average over time. People who rely heavily on using their phones for business or have an extremely large network of friends or who rely on sending and receiving multiple social network update alerts from friends will naturally have more true phone vibrations and this increased frequency will impact the quota of phantom vibrations experienced as the average time between actual digital receptions which activate the phone will cause the brain to be expecting a vibration to happen within the time span that the conditioning has dictated.

Because the omnipresent use of phones in the current human evolutionary period is a new development there is little historical comparisons that can be made. Previous generations did not have smartphones or mobile phones. Similarities could be reflected with various occupational hazards of the past; hard rock miners , for example, would spend hours every day holding large vibrating drills and after a while the miners would feel their forearms vibrating even when they were at home not near their drills. The continuous impacts of the actual vibration bled over into a phantom sensation much like amputees experience phantom limbs, a foot can feel itchy when the foot is not there.

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