Remember the meme where a person is staring at the phone screen while it is ringing and the caption says, “me waiting for the phone to stop ringing so that I can text the person and ask what they want”? My friends used to tag me to this meme at least a couple of times a week. It was funny at the beginning. Because hey, if it is textable, please stop calling. But it turned into something else. At one point I started ghosting people, sometimes even my colleagues. A basic notification alert used to make me uncomfortable. Until and unless someone called or texted me for, let’s say 20 times, I kept ignoring them. Was I being rude intentionally? Or, all of these were “I am not feeling like doing it” moments? I had no clue. I kept blaming myself till I found out about phone anxiety.
It all made sense then.
What is Phone Anxiety
The fear and resistance to phone communications are recognized as phone anxiety. If you have Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), chances are you might also have phone anxiety. However, it is not necessary to have SAD to possess phone anxiety. Although, it can be interlinked, having a love-hate relationship with your phone does not always mean you have phone anxiety. You might just be comfortable with social or face-to-face interactions.
Symptoms of Phone Anxiety
First thing first, if you are having severe signs of anxiety such as racing heart or shortness of breath when you need to interact via phone; you might have phone phobia. The symptoms of phone anxiety can be both emotional and physical.
The physical symptoms of phone anxiety are-
– Shortness of breath;
– Increased heart rate;
– Nausea and dizziness;
– Muscular tension;
– Concentration issues.
The emotional and mental symptoms of phone anxiety are-
– Avoiding phone calls or interactions;
– Delaying making phone calls or interactions;
– Severe nervousness prior to, during, and after the call;
– Obsession over the phone conversation;
– Concerned about what you are going to say;
– Constantly distressed about phone calls or texts;
– Worried about embarrassing yourself;
– Anxious about bothering people.
Causes of Phone Anxiety
To get over phone anxiety, one needs to know the causes that are responsible for this. As we mentioned above, if you already have Social Anxiety Disorder, phone anxiety comes with it as a package. But what are the other reasons? You will find them below:
The Feeling of Being Judged
One of the most common reasons for phone anxiety is getting this constant feeling of being judged. It is not just the person on another side of the phone. It can be people around you while you are talking over the phone. We are essentially social creatures. So, people’s perception of us means a lot. This is why we constantly remain worried about being judged.
Not Knowing What is Going on the Other Side
Not knowing which circumstances the other person is in or what they are thinking can also cause phone anxiety. For some people, it might be a little nerve-wracking. What is coming next and figuring out the proper reply or answer for that is a good reason to make people anxious.
Getting Complete Attention
The strain of being a person’s focus is one further reason of phone communications might seem daunting at times which can cause phone anxiety. There are numerous distractions in the surrounding when we conduct face-to-face discussions which makes it relaxed and easygoing. But it is not the same for phone communications. Yes, we might text more than one people but to ensure good communication, we put more energy that those distractions stop mattering.
Uncomfortable silences can also be another reason for having phone anxiety. Let’s be honest, not all of us are comfortable with silences. And silences during phone calls or texts can be more uncomfortable than usual. You can tell when someone is preoccupied or pondering in face-to-face interactions. Which is mostly impossible during phone interactions. So, our mind starts wondering if we said or did something wrong.
Living Around Nosy People
If people around are nosy and do not care about personal boundaries you might get phone anxiety due to this as well. If they constantly breach your privacy, try to eavesdrop, or attempt to check your texts; it is actually pretty easy to become anxious and self-aware.
Coping with Phone Anxiety
If you have reached the most severe level of phone anxiety our first and only suggestion will be visiting a therapist. Because there is no shame in asking for help or going to a therapist. And if you still are at the initial stage here are some ways that might help you with it.
Take Long Deep Breath
When you hear the caller tune or notification tone. Give yourself a few seconds and start taking a couple of deep breaths. It will ease the tension. Unclench your jawline, smile, and receive the phone or reply to the text.
Pick Up the Phone
If breathing is still not working for you, then just go for it. Increasing your phone call or text exposure is an excellent strategy to conquer phone anxiety. You might need to push yourself here. But remember you don’t have to receive or reply to every call or text. Start slow. Because slow progress is still progress.
If you trying to increase your call receiving or text replying rate, let’s call it exposure therapy, then set some goals. And gradually increase the number. For instance, for the first week set a goal to receive 10 calls and to reply to 15 texts. For the next week, receive 15 calls and reply to 20 texts. Gradually your response rate will increase.
How to Help a Friend with Phone Anxiety
If you have someone in your life who is suffering from phone anxiety, please make sure you are supporting them and being the reason for their anxiety. We have tried to provide you some techniques to support a person who is suffering from this.
Accept Their Silence
If you are calling or texting the person and they are not receiving, if it is a phone call just send them a text that we are going to be there when they have the mental space to talk. And if it is a texting situation, stop texting or just let them know you are there and then stop.
Stop Making Fun of Them
While tagging your friend might seem a very good idea to have some fun but at times it might make everything worse. Because we never know what the other person is actually going through. You can have a one on one conversation with them but do not mention this publicly.
Tell them how much you appreciate it when they have a conversation with you. Share the beautiful memories of that one wholesome conversation they had with you. If they answer a call or text in front of you let them know that they did a great job. Show them your support and encouragement but do not overdo it.
Respect Their Boundaries
If you are trying to communicate with your friend about their phone anxiety. Ask if they are okay with that or not in the first place. If they say no, do not push, do not rush. Let them know you are worried and if they ever want to talk about it at some point, you will be there to talk.
Phone anxiety may wreak havoc on your professional and personal life. It is extremely crucial to treat phone anxiety carefully. Phone anxiety is tough to overcome, but it is possible. Therefore, if your or someone else’s anxiety of making and taking phone calls or texts stretches to other aspects of life, or if you or that person have generalized phobias of social contact, it may be beneficial to seek the advice of a mental health expert.