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Is Phone Anxiety a Problem for you?

 

With the advent of texting, many phone users have developed an anxiety about physically answering their phone - they dislike the idea of using their phone for talking rather than for texting.

In spite of wanting to stay in touch with friends and family, especially if they cannot see them in person, they would rather text than talk.

While many people dislike using the phone, if you delay or avoid making calls, feel extremely nervous and worry about what you will say, you may well be suffering from "telephobia".

What are the symptoms of telephobia?

There are actual physical symptoms of this condition and they include:

  • Nausea.
  • Increase in heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Dizziness.
  • Muscular tension

How widespread is this condition?

A 2019 survey of workers in the UK found that 76% of millennials and 40% of baby boomers suffer from anxiety when their phone rings - to such an extent that many will avoid calls.

During recent months, many such workers may have felt more nervous than usual when they began being asked to take part in video calls - some for the first time.  They worried about how they would appear.

But there are other reasons why a phone call can lead to stress:

  • When communication is limited to purely speech, it can be more daunting.
  • In the absence of gestures, body language and eye contact, we are more likely to feel self conscious about our voices and choice of words.

Why are so many more confident texting instead of talking?

There are several reasons for this:

  • Texting offers social contact while reducing any fear of rejection or disapproval.
  • Texting allows the user to review what they have written before pressing "send".
  • Some of us even go on to develop a specific text personality, one that can contrast to perhaps a more reticent real life self.
  • When talking, the pressure of being someone else's sole focus can feel overwhelming.
  • When talking on the phone, it can feel like we are too much in the spotlight with no relief as you cannot see when the other person is distracted or thinking.  This can make any pauses more awkward.
  • When face-to-face communicating, we can have distractions like looking away or gazing out of the window.

Are there any techniques for overcoming this fear?

Ilham Sebah (a teaching fellow) from the Royal Holloway University of London in the UK shares these three tips:

  1. Start by exposing yourself to more phone calls as the more you can handle, the less overwhelming it becomes.
  2. Make a list of friends or colleagues you need to speak to and think about what makes you anxious for each one - examples include making a mistake or feeling judged.
  3. Consider seeking professional help if you think you might benefit from this.  One suggestion is cognitive behavioural therapy which can be very effective for social anxiety.