Humans are wired for connection and involvement, but the fear of missing out may negatively affect physical and mental wellness.
If you’ve ever sat at home wondering what you were missing, stared at your phone longingly waiting for a text, or struggled between choosing which event to decline on the same night, it might have been FOMO.
These feelings of constant worry, apprehension, and second-guessing decisions could be described as fear of missing out — aka, FOMO.
It’s not just you. At some point, everyone has experienced the fear of missing out. But why is it so natural to feel this way? And what can you do the next time it comes up?
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is the anxiety or apprehension surrounding missing out on things like:
- social events
- the latest gossip or news
Experiencing FOMO may make you feel like you aren’t as connected to the latest happenings and norms of society as you would like to be or “should” be.
FOMO can happen when you don’t get invited to a party, when your co-workers go out after work without you, or when you aren’t participating in the latest trends on social media.
FOMO can also be as simple as routinely checking your text messages. It may also look like instantly picking up your phone when you get a notification, or signing up for an activity despite the possibility of burnout from a full schedule.
FOMO can affect your overall health and wellness.
If you become overloaded with social events and activities to avoid FOMO, it can impact your sleep and eating habits, leading to:
- lack of motivation
- performance issues at work or school
FOMO can also trigger anxiety or feelings of loneliness. With FOMO, you may cycle through self-critical thoughts like:
- “What will happen if I miss something or if I’m not there?”
- “Will I be talked about negatively for missing the event?”
- “Will people think less of me because I’m not following a certain trend?”
This cycle of anxious thoughts and the need to keep up could ultimately result in symptoms of depression.
FOMO can also lead some people to do or say things they typically wouldn’t just to appear “in the know” or get in with a “cool” crowd.
The innate desire for social connection and belonging can drive FOMO. It’s natural for humans to feel a need for interpersonal relationships and want to belong to something greater than themselves.
When people feel they lack these types of connections, it can cause emotional and physical distress. For some people, this could affect overall well-being and functioning.
Teens and adolescents may be the most vulnerable to FOMO, especially within a culture of being online 24/7.
Social media can cause people to compare themselves to others, which may lead to a negative self-image, especially in younger people.
For some teens, unaddressed FOMO can
- low self-esteem
- risky or harmful behaviors
Your brain is still developing as a teen, so teens may be more vulnerable to feeling peer pressure to not miss out. FOMO could influence some teens to do something unsafe or that they wouldn’t typically do without considering the consequences.
Sometimes, the fear of missing out can point to feeling disconnected from what you truly value as important in your life. Avoiding feelings of FOMO can often mean working on breaking negative cycles.
Doing a ‘digital detox’
Tuning out from digital spaces — like social media and breaking news — can help you become more present and intentional in your everyday life.
Detoxing from social media that may cause FOMO can also be a great way to refresh your connection to yourself and what you love.
Getting in more quality time
Putting your phone down and spending time with loved ones face-to-face can be a great way to re-center your most important relationships.
Friends and family are often the best people to turn to when you need to be reminded that you’re worthy of love and acceptance, no matter what other people are doing.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness
Mindfulness practices, like meditation and yoga, can be wonderful for developing a sense of calm and remaining in the present moment.
Quieting the mind and focusing on your breathing can increase your own awareness that whatever is currently causing FOMO may not be worth your energy or time.
Even taking a nice walk in nature can help restore a sense of balance and purpose that you simply can’t get from scrolling and liking posts on Instagram.
Journaling may help you identify what triggers your FOMO. When you have a clear idea of who or what causes your fears of missing out, it may be easier to reframe your relationship around those thoughts and feelings.
Going to therapy
If your fear of missing out has severely affected your day-to-day life and functioning, therapy may be a good option to help you regain clarity and balance.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one version of talk therapy where a therapist can help you recognize triggers for anxious or depressive thoughts and then help you create better ways to cope with them.
Everyone has FOMO at one point or another. And while younger people may be more likely to experience it, anyone can feel left out.
Sometimes, the fear of missing out can even affect your mental and physical well-being. Feeling like you’re always missing out on things can create anxiety and worsen feelings of loneliness and depression.
Your self-esteem may also take a hit, especially if you feel like you don’t “belong” or are not measuring up to social expectations.
There are many strategies that can help you avoid or cope with FOMO, such as:
- mindfulness practices, like yoga and meditation
- taking a break or setting limits with social media
- spending time with loved ones
If you feel like talking with a therapist could be helpful but don’t know where to start, check out Psych Central’s comprehensive guide to finding mental health support.
FOMO isn’t forever. Doing your best to be present can help remind you that you are enough — as you are, right here, right now.