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Phantom vibration syndrome

Author(s): Camran Yasin Miah, University of Manchester Medical School, United Kingdom. Copy edited by Gus Mitchell. August 2022.


What is phantom vibration syndrome?

Phantom vibration syndrome (PVS) refers to the false perception that one’s mobile phone or other technological device is vibrating when it is not. 

Most often associated with excessive mobile phone use, it has been described as a tactile hallucination as the brain perceives the vibration that is not present. This pseudo-sensation can lead to psycho-social symptoms in some cases, however this area is understudied.

Who gets phantom vibration syndrome?

No specific population groups have been identified as having a greater prevalence of PVS. Anyone who owns a mobile phone or other technological vibrating device could theoretically develop PVS, with overuse carrying greater risk. 

What causes phantom vibration syndrome?

The aetiology of PVS is unknown and requires further investigation. It has been hypothesised as a misinterpretation by the cerebral cortex due to the large number of sensory stimuli continuously received by the brain. As the user anticipates a vibratory notification, stimuli such as muscle contractions are possibly misconstrued as a vibration sensation. 

Devices that cause phantom vibration syndrome

What are the clinical features of phantom vibration syndrome?  

No cutaneous features of PVS have been identified in the research. However, PVS has been linked to some psycho-social symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Over-vigilance
  • Psychological stress
  • Emotional disturbance.

What are the complications of phantom vibration syndrome?

  • Worsening mental health.

How is phantom vibration syndrome diagnosed?

PVS can be diagnosed by a thorough clinical history.

What is the treatment of phantom vibration syndrome?

  • Reducing time spent on mobile phone
  • Carrying the device in a different pocket
  • Switching the vibration capability off

What is the outcome for phantom vibration syndrome?

More research must be done on the outcomes of phantom vibration syndrome. Some studies suggest worsening of mental health related to anxiety and hypervigilance could possibly deteriorate into serious psychiatric issues if left unmanaged.



  • Deb A. (2015). Phantom vibration and phantom ringing among mobile phone users: A systematic review of literature. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 7(3), 231-239. Journal
  • Qureshi M, et al. Prevalence of phantom vibration syndrome and phantom ringing syndrome (Ringxiety): Risk of sleep disorders and infertility among medical students. 2014;Int J, 2, 688–93. Journal
  • Pareek S. Phantom vibration syndrome: An emerging phenomenon. Asian Journal of Nursing Education and Research, 7(4), 596–7. Journal
  • Rothberg MB, et al. Phantom vibration syndrome among medical staff: a cross sectional survey. BMJ 2010; 341: c6914. doi:10.1136/bmj.c6914. Journal

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