It may sound weird, but there are many people around the world who suffer from an intense fear of talking on the phone. Telephonophobia is the self explanatory name give to such severe anxiety. Most ‘Telephonophobes’ prefer sending a text message or emailing their contacts, since, even the mere thought of ordering a pizza on the phone is enough to cause them to have a full blown panic attack. Telephonophobia could be a part of general social phobia though some people are known to suffer from the specific fear of talking on the phone. The Telephone has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell first invented it. Today, most of us cannot ‘live’ without our mobile or Smartphones. However, Telephonophobic individuals greatly dislike these devices and most prefer not to buy/use one at all.
What causes Telephonophobia?
Like in any social or specific phobias, the fear of talking on the phone might stem from a negative experience in one’s childhood. For example, one phobic recalls having developed Telephonophobia in her childhood after having been teased by friends that her (the caller’s) voice sounded like a man’s.
Secondly, the fear that a caller on the other end could be a prank caller can also lead one to become anxious about answering the phone.
Then there are Telephonophobes who have developed their phobia in adulthood after reading or hearing reports about mobile phones creating harmful electromagnetic fields that negatively affect health or cause brain tumors. In a sense, such individuals have a tendency towards Hypochondriachal neurosis as a result of which they develop a persistent fear of talking on the phone.
OCD or obsessive compulsive disorders may also be linked with Telephonophobia.
Some individuals might have received negative news (death, accident, illness etc of loved ones) over the phone. They start to fear that each time they answer the phone, they might tempt their “bad luck” and create some negative situation in their lives.
Finally, social anxiety is also a major contributor in this phobia. Most individuals suffering from the fear of talking on the phone feel that their ‘inabilities’ will be exposed when they are unable to speak or express themselves clearly. Even the mere ringing of the phone signals a string of anxieties or thoughts linked with “speaking, performing or conversing”.
Symptoms of fear of talking on the phone phobia
Telephonophobia can lead to a variety of physical and mental symptoms both at the thought of making a phone call or receiving one. These include:
- Full blown panic or anxiety attack
- Feeling terror
- Accelerated heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling, shaking
- Dry mouth, nausea, feeling like running away
- Avoidance behavior: avoiding answering the phone or rarely initiating conversation, not ordering anything on the phone, refusing to make doctor’s appointments etc.
Thus, the phobia can affect one’s day-to-day life by causing one to avoid important activities, clarify information and may even negatively impact one’s career.
Ways of treating and coping with telephone phobia
- It is important to understand that the telephone is a device one is going to need all through one’s life as it is an important tool for communication which one must learn to love.
- If you recognize that you have a problem facing talking on the phone, then you must ensure seeking help for it. Talk to your doctor/therapist, loved ones and also get help through online forums.
- Gradually get over your Telephonophobia by directly confronting the fear. Start by calling no one in particular; simply pick up the phone and “initiate a conversation”. Alternatively, call some customer service line where you know there is only automated voice to answer your call.
- Positive visualization can also play an important role in helping the phobic handle phone calls successfully. Rewarding self with something nice after making the call can also help.
Other therapies to cope with Telephonophobia include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), psychotherapy or hypnotherapy which must be done under the guidance of trained therapists.