The Curse of FOMO

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”
— Gautama Buddha

FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out, an affliction exponentially inspired by the holiday season.

The omnipresent anxiety and regret that one is absent from social opportunities and novel events, is heightened by the seductive lure of holiday pleasure.

Barraged by the glitz and glam of commercialism, celebratory holiday parties, and familial gatherings, the promise of what can potentially fulfill while subtly reminding you of what you lack, is ubiquitous.

Marketing campaigns promulgating the virtues of gift giving ‘the latest and greatest this or that,’ ignite an insidious form of FOMO consumerism, resulting in unbridled materialism and massive debt.

The notion that a potentially unforeseen life-changing experience could save one from the vicissitudes of ordinary life is an all too common phenomenon.

To some degree, we are all vulnerable to FOMO. However, there are those who compulsively seek situational stimuli to satisfy unmet psychological needs.

They evidence a frantic urgency to distract from unbearable internal distress. Although buying into the FOMO hype further exacerbates this distress, the habitual lamenting over lost opportunities seems insurmountable.

Identifying the underlying concerns and the true cause of FOMO anxiety is a necessary and critical step towards reversing this destructive trend.

A Fundamental Need

Inner peace emanates from early childhood imprinting. The need to feel loved and cared for is fundamental to well-being. When one is adequately loved and admired, a core sense of worth and value is instilled.

On the contrary, when one is neglected and abused, a core sense of inferiority and annihilating aloneness and unloveability is assimilated. One feels damaged, unsafe, and cast out. For the chronic FOMO sufferer, the pain of feeling left out awakens this core wound and triggers survival fears.

From this activated state, the FOMO sufferer is compulsively driven to find anecdotal activities to mask the panic, the emptiness and low self-esteem.

The accessibility of social media and other forms of cyber relatedness offers an immediate fix and a substitute fulfillment for true intimacy. One is simultaneously connected and disconnected. Virtual communication mitigates and makes obsolete conventional forms of communication.

Real life engagement takes a back seat to digital preoccupation, ironically exacerbating the experience of FOMO.

Turn Within

For the FOMO zealot, the drudgery of commitment and predictability is viewed as an impediment to an intangible source of fulfillment. Instead, a connection and/or event of earth-shattering proportions is perceived as the pinnacle of achievement. It’s the quest for the exciting life out there that will unfailingly assuage excruciating malaise. To shift this perspective one has to be willing to turn within.

Novelist Ursula K. Le Guin wrote:

“When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”

For those who come to recognize the source of their brokenness and the misguided pathological pursuit of FOMO deliverance, there is hope.

The longing to come home to one self is grasped, and the futile external quest desists. The tenacious fixation on the idealized life, person or experience is recognized as fictitious. The search for what is ‘real’ and meaningful takes precedence. Self-realization becomes the ultimate goal. It is only through dropping within and unearthing the true self that the soul is awakened and enduring peace is attained.

Party photo available from Shutterstock

The Curse of FOMO

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Heller, R. (2015). The Curse of FOMO. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 30 Dec 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Dec 2015
Published on All rights reserved.