Do You Have Phantom Vibration Syndrome?

Some time ago, I started feeling a buzzing feeling on my right thigh. My muscle would twitch a bit, as though it were a tic. I wondered why this happened, then I realized that it corresponded to the place where I often carry my iPhone. And I almost never have the ringer on; I only have it vibrate when I get calls or texts, and not when I get notifications.

I asked Dr. Google, and, sure enough, this is a real medical condition called Phantom Vibration Syndrome. (You can read about it on Wikipedia.)

It came up again today when I noticed someone on Facebook mentioning that they often get muscle twitches and think it’s their phone buzzing. I find it interesting that this has been around for a while; the Wikipedia article cites a 1996 Dilbert comic strip which discusses phantom pager syndrome, saying “It’s common among technology workers.”

Have you ever noticed this? I don’t any more; it lasted a few months, and it stopped after I realized what it was. I found it interesting, though, that the brain could interpret some kinds of movement or other stimulus as though it’s a phone vibrating. And I wonder if there will soon be phantom haptic tap syndrome for Apple Watch users. Personally, I rarely feel the taps from my phone, since they’re so weak, and I’ve never noticed any phantom taps…

6 thoughts on “Do You Have Phantom Vibration Syndrome?

  1. Yeah, I get this sometimes. I carry my phone in my shirt pocket, and feel the “buzz” sometimes when all I’ve got in that pocket is a pair of glasses. Isn’t thinking of this as a “medical condition” a little grandiose? It strikes me as a minor psychological phenomenon.

    • I definitely wouldn’t call it psychological; it’s more neurological. It’s actually quite fascinating, when you think of it.

  2. Yeah, I get this sometimes. I carry my phone in my shirt pocket, and feel the “buzz” sometimes when all I’ve got in that pocket is a pair of glasses. Isn’t thinking of this as a “medical condition” a little grandiose? It strikes me as a minor psychological phenomenon.

    • I definitely wouldn’t call it psychological; it’s more neurological. It’s actually quite fascinating, when you think of it.

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