Afraid to Pick Up? … Phone Phobia & Social Anxiety

Phone phobia - social anxiety

A quite common but not very talked about part of Social Anxiety Disorder for a lot of people is a fear of using the phone.  I’ve tended to think recently that maybe this isn’t talked about very much because it’s actually quite possible these days to avoid using the phone and just text/ email/ IM/ twitter/ Facebook everyone, but I think it’s interesting that most people I’ve talked to over the years tend to not be afraid of communicating via all these other methods, just the phone.

Why is that?

Well, a couple of factors:

The phone is immediate and involves an actual live voice to conversation.  None of these other methods do.  There is also an intense focus on just your voice, and I think this can also fuel anxiety for people.  There is also a lot of information missing, you don’t get any non-verbal cues with the phone and I think for people who are anxious about social contact this can make things worse.

It’s also possible to procrastinate and avoid.  If you’re calling out, you can “put it off” and not call, thereby avoiding and setting up a negative spiral. Similarly with incoming calls.  The phone can give anyone a fright at the best of times, and in response to that anxiety we can just choose not to answer, and once more avoid.

Do you have a phone phobia?

Did you know it was a recognised part of Social Anxiety Disorder?  Let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Leah

    I have a huge problem with answering the phone, especially if I don’t know who it is but a lot of the time I don’t even check who it is and just pretend I was busy elsewhere and therefore couldn’t answer the phone. I don’t like calling people, my boyfriend does all the phone calls as I’ve told him I prefer to do the emails as he’s not so good with technology. I’ve never really thought of it as a huge problem until recently when I’ve needed to have more phone conversations but can’t seem to be able to do so very easily at all. I’m glad to find this post about phone phobia as it makes me realise that I’m not the only one that suffers with this problem!

    • Really glad you found it useful Leah.

  • J

    Also when a phone call is incoming the person that is anxious can’t control the situation at all or prepare for the situation at all and that is something that makes me anxious, I realize now. it is like a deadline or problem will be presented to you that you have not had time to prepare for and may not know the correct answer and to just say “I don’t know “or take more time to figure it out …..the other person will want an answer, and if you need to exit the conversation you can’t because the only thing to do is hang up the phone, so avoiding the phone call is what happens. I also found that if there is a call I need to make , if somebody keeps bugging me about it ask me ” did you call? did you call ?” it will be harder for me to call ! I need people to leave me alone and let me feel comfortable before I can even make the outgoing call :/

    • Great points. There are lots of ways that using the phone can provoke anxiety, and feeling lie you can’t escape is a really common trigger for people.

  • Lisa

    Eh, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s just calling. I have an extreme version of this phobia – all incoming correspondence – I have over 80 unread text messages right now (don’t worry, I have read receipts turned on, so if they have iPhones they should be able to tell their message is unread). I haven’t checked my email in two years, at least. I can’t figure it out, either. When push comes to shove, if it is a phone call I absolutely must make (ex: regarding a utility such as gas/electric), I can Tab the number and tap Tab the number and tap coyote “call,” very quickly and excepted as happening. But, virtually, that is the only way I’ll do it. Oddly, I don’t want to be non-respondent to people. I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t reply. I do want to respond, initiate and participate. Mostly when it comes to corresponding I feel the way one does in a dream when suddenly needing to sprint (or throw a punch), and despite having an appropriate physiological response to the need – one that is synonymous with the action to accomplish – I except as if sprinting normally but move as if attempting this feat inside an infinity of jello. I’m just stuck. And it’s much harder for me the more I know someone; I have very little problem at all when it comes to talking to and connecting with strangers. I feel terrible for them, however, when they ask to exchange numbers because I know the closer we get, the more avoidant I’m likely to become.

    • Hi Lisa, thanks for your comments and you’re right it isn’t just phone calls. To state the obvious, avoidance here is the problem and it is possible to work very actively on avoidance as a problem. My program has a lot of strategies to help people overcome avoidance, I suggest you check it out.

  • AmeyNessa

    I don’t know how to over come it. I can’t get a job at this rate.

    • I know it can be hard, and at times everyone with social anxiety feels hopeless and stuck. I would really recommend you consider checking out my online treatment program, it can really help!

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