Phantom vibration syndrome

MY colleague, Carlos, tells me he wakes up every morning with a vibrating sensation on this upper thigh—his pocket area. “Me, too!” I say. Things that come to mind: is there an emergency referral? Did I miss a potentially lethal diagnosis? What wrong have I done this time?

I tell him about a phenomenon called the phantom vibration syndrome where person feels something vibrating even in the absence of stimulus.

A cross-sectional survey by Rothberg et al (BMJ 2010; 341:c6914) describes "the prevalence of and risk factors for experiencing ‘phantom vibrations’” among medical staff.

"The perceptions were most common among students and house staff and were associated with frequency of use. Most respondents found the sensations to be only mildly annoying, but 2% found them very bothersome. As a result, only 61% had tried to stop them, and most of those who tried succeeded in extinguishing the sensation—either by moving the device or refraining from using it in vibrate mode.”

It's funny how our phones—and technology, in general—can be sources of anxiety and stress.

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