What Is FOMO?

FOMO is an acronym for "fear of missing out." Typically, "FOMO" is used to describe situations in which people feel a sense of anxiety about being left out of certain activities or opportunities.

First introduced in 2004, FOMO has become a relatively common term in the years since then. However, since the acronym is closely associated with wanting to belong and fit in, the concept of FOMO has been around much longer than that.

It probably comes as no surprise that the popularity of the term "FOMO" has risen as social media has become an increasingly integral part of our lives. Prior to the emergence of platforms like Facebook and Instagram, we weren't constantly aware of what everyone in our social circles was doing at any given moment. Scrolling through social media feeds can create the illusion that everyone is doing something fun all the time, which can magnify feelings of social exclusion.

Some of the behaviors and symptoms associated with FOMO include:

  • Obsessively checking social media
  • Feelings of inadequacy to others
  • Feeling sad, anxious, or depressed
  • Overscheduling to avoid missing out
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Mental and/or physical exhaustion

The ADHD Connection to FOMO

You may have noticed that the symptoms of FOMO overlap with several of the symptoms of ADHD. For example, people with ADHD already have higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to the general population. Sleeping issues are also relatively common among ADHDers. Of course, difficulty concentrating is another hallmark symptom of the disorder.

Unfortunately, this means that people with ADHD may feel the effects of FOMO more acutely than someone who is neurotypical. For an ADHDer, the fear of missing out may be particularly disruptive to their emotional state and overall mental health since the symptoms of ADHD and FOMO essentially feed off each other.

In addition, individuals with ADHD who primarily experience FOMO from social media may have more difficulty pulling themselves away from their screens. When they hyperfocus on what the people they follow online are doing, they may get caught in a vicious cycle that's hard to break out of.

One unique connection between FOMO and ADHD is the way it can make someone feel inferior to others. That's something that many people with ADHD are familiar with in their day-to-day lives. It may already seem like you're constantly trying to fit in in a world that isn't built for neurodivergent folks. FOMO can make some people feel more like an outsider and exacerbate feelings of rejection.

Who Gets FOMO?

Besides those with ADHD, there are a few other types of people who are more prone to experience FOMO. If you also happen to fall into one of these groups, be aware that you may be more susceptible to the symptoms of FOMO.

  • Millennials and Gen Zers: While people of any age can experience FOMO, people in Generations Y and Z are often more susceptible to it. This is likely due to their higher levels of internet and social media use.
  • Social extroverts: People who are extroverted derive much of their energy from being with other people. When they know that others are experiencing that group energy without them, they may be particularly affected by FOMO.
  • People who are depressed: A number of the symptoms of depression mimic those of FOMO, such as trouble concentrating, feelings of sadness and anxiety, and sleep disturbances. People with depression may also feel unhappy and unloved, which can make them even more upset about feeling left out.

5 Ways to Minimize FOMO

It's impossible to eliminate the fear of missing out completely. It's in our human nature to want to belong and be part of a group. But if FOMO is becoming a source of pain for you, or you feel like you're suffering from the symptoms of FOMO, it's time to make some changes. Try using the following strategies to minimize FOMO in your life.

Cut back on social media use

Social media use is a major trigger of FOMO. Try cutting back on the amount of time you spend scrolling through your social media accounts each day. You can commit to checking social media just once per day, for example, or you could set a timer that reminds you to log off. Some social media platforms, such as Instagram, allow you to set reminders when you've spent a certain amount of time on the app. You may also want to reduce the number of people you follow online, especially if you find that their posts are more likely to make you feel left out or dissatisfied with your own life.

Practice mindfulness

Whether you practice it through meditation, yoga, or another calming activity, mindfulness is all about being in the moment. You focus on what's happening right now and allow other thoughts to pass you by. You don't have to shut out your feelings of FOMO, but when you're being mindful, you can simply accept those feelings and let them go rather than fixating on them. In addition to helping with FOMO, practicing mindfulness has a number of benefits for people with ADHD. It can help minimize impulsive actions, improve focus, decrease hyperactive behaviors, and boost executive function.  

Focus on gratitude

Taking a moment to remember all the good things you have in your life is a helpful strategy for overcoming FOMO. Try making a list of things you're thankful for. You could also journal about the positive to ease your mental discomfort when you feel like you're missing out.

Make your own plans

It's natural to feel a little jealous when you see other people doing fun things without you. One way to combat those feelings is to focus on your plans. When you have some events and activities coming up on your calendar that you're looking forward to, you may find that your FOMO isn't as intense. Make plans to hang out with a friend, start planning a vacation, sign up for a class, or just go for a walk and experience the beauty around you. When you look for more opportunities to find joy in your own life, FOMO won't be such a burden.

Manage your ADHD

If you happen to be diagnosed with ADHD - managing your symptoms with medication or therapy can help. Treating ADHD symptoms can help so those feelings of FOMO aren't as intense. When your symptoms are under control, you may also feel like you're better able to pull yourself away from social media when it's getting you down.