Living with Telephonophobia

Today, I thought I'd talk to you all about something that I really struggle with, and that's phone anxiety. I basically have a phobia of making phone calls and talking on the phone, and it's something that I have had for as long as I can remember. The fear of phone calls or telephonophobia is a really common problem for those who have anxiety disorders, and yet it's something that not many people talk about. This has inspired me to write this post, to share with you all my thoughts about living with phone anxiety and how it affects my life. I hope that it also helps others with phone anxiety realise that they are not alone.

Phone Anxiety, Telephonophobia, Living with Phone Anxiety,

Phone anxiety is something that I have always found difficult to discuss. Over the years, I have been faced with both confusion and judgement whenever I have mentioned how stressed I am over a phone call I'm expecting or when others have seen me panic whilst I refuse to answer an incoming call. How can I be terrified of doing something that others find so simple? For many people who do not struggle with anxiety or phobias, it can be hard to understand how someone else can be so scared of talking on the phone. As with other mental health conditions, anxiety disorder is often stigmatised. Those with anxiety are told to 'just get over it', 'there's nothing to be scared of' or 'you're just overeacting'. This stigma extends to phone anxiety too and I have been made to feel embarassed, annoying and pathetic when people have seen me struggle with making a phone call. 

I wish those people could understand just how crippling my phone anxiety is. I experienced the most stressful symptoms: shaking, feeling tight-chested and having difficultly breathing, dizziness, heart palpitations. My anxiety causes my body to believe that I'm going through a dangerous situation so it's natural response to prepare me to fight or run away. I cannot control this from happening, it's not a choice. Telephonophobia is a serious problem for me and it's not something that I can 'just get over'. 

I have generalised anxiety disorder and as part of that, I also experience social anxiety, agoraphobia and obsessive compulsive disorder. All of these feed into my fear of social situations, especially those that I feel I have little control over or have not been given time to mentally prepare for. Phone calls for me are scary as they are usually unexpected and even when they are scheduled for a specific time and I have a general idea of what the call will entail, I still feel a degree of uncertainty and this is what triggers my anxiety. I find phone calls even more daunting than face-to-face conversations because I cannot pick up on the body language of the person I'm talking to and therefore there are no ways for me to get the subtle reassurances (such as a smile) that I need to put me at ease. This makes me panic about what the other person is thinking about me. Do they think I sound stupid? Am I making sense? Am I embarassing myself? What does my voice sound like? Can they detect that I'm anxious in my voice?

Phone Anxiety, Telephonophobia, Living with phone anxiety,

When I first started developing anxiety, I was a teenager so I didn't have to deal with the pressures that adult life bring, therefore phone anxiety was something that I only ever occassionally had to deal with. Most of my friends communicated with me via text or on good old MSN when we weren't at school, and the only stressful phone call I ever remember having to make was for my work experience. It was a requirement of my school that everyone called their work experience to arrange an interview. This was the first time I fully realised that I had a problem with phone calls, as I refused to call for days, left it until the last minute, obsessed over how the conversation would go and on the day that I ended up actually calling, I rang and put the phone down before they picked up several times. I can imagine it would have been very annoying for the owner of the boarding kennels where I did my work experience, oops! 

 As I've gotten older, my mental health has become more severe. When I started university, I also started struggling with chronic illness which only made my mental health worse. This made it more and more challenging for me to deal with independent life. I was conflicted with not having the energy or motivation to go out shopping but then not wanting to order my food online because there might be a phone call involved. I eventually got the point where online shopping was the only option for me and it was so stressful having to deal with the suspected call from the delivery driver asking me for directions to my flat when they had arrived on campus. When I am anxious, I forget things really easily as I have so many panicky thoughts going through my head that it's difficult for me to have a conversation. This only happened twice and the second time, the driver actually made my anxiety worse as he decided to make me feel stupid when he got to my flat by making fun of me not being able to give directions, but in a way where you can't tell if they are joking or not. From that day, one of my friends kindly offered to order my shopping with his so I didn't have to deal with the phonecall. I'm so thankful because I don't know what I would have done.

It's now been a long time since I talked on the phone to anyone other than my mum. She's a star and does all of my phone calls for me, of which I only occassionally have to confirm that it's okay for the company/service to discuss my personal information with her. Living with phone anxiety makes it really difficult for me to be independent as I cannot call the doctors to book appointments, call takeaways to order food, my bank to discuss anything to do with my account or to call taxis. I can't answer my phone, even to one of my loved ones. I have to ignore their call and ring back later when I am more prepared. It makes me feel really bad but I start to experience the symptoms of a panic attack if I receive an unexpected call. I jump everytime my phone rings or when someone calls the family landline. Getting a text saying 'ring me' or receiving a voicemail saying I have to call back is like my worst nightmare!


Phone Anxiety, Telephonophobia, Living with Phone Anxiety,

If I am forced to endure a phone call because it's for something really important or I've ignored phone calls from people for too long (sorry guys!), I think about the phone call for days! I have to plan through different scenarios of what I will say, what they could possibly say, how I'll answer if they do say certain things... I actually find myself practicing the phone call aloud to myself. It takes me ages to work up the courage to call them, I usually have an anxiety attack. After the phone call I obsess over what was said for ages. It really impacts my ability to be social and to communicate with people. I often never call places back when they leave me a voicemail and I've even ignored scheduled phone calls before. I just can't do it sometimes. The anxiety of the actual phone call is hard to deal with but then there's the fear that people think I am a bad friend, that they think I don't want to talk to them, and in the past, I've had loved ones make me feel bad by saying I should be able to talk to them, after I've explained that I have a phobia of phone calls.  

Having anxiety whilst also being an introvert means that small talk is not one of my strong points, and this is one of the reasons that phone calls make me so panicky. I don't like when people ring me without a main agenda. It's a lot less anxiety-evoking when people get straight to the main point of the call so that I can answer quickly and end the call as soon as possible. Fellow introverts, you with me? 

With modern technology, it's making it a lot easier for me to communicate with my friends and family whilst being able to avoid talking on the phone. I hope that one day, I can find ways to challenge my anxiety and work on my telephonophobia, but for now it's at a pretty bad place and it's not going to be an easy step. If any of you also experience phone anxiety and can offer me some tips on how to manage it, that would be really helpful :) I hope that this post has been insightful for those of you who didn't know much about phone anxiety, and helpful to others living with it too.  

Thankyou for reading!

♥ 

Do you have phone anxiety? How does it impact your life?

  
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4 comments:

  1. I also suffer with this phobia but I didn't even know it had a name! I am definitely not as bad as you but I will do whatever I can to get out of making or answering phone calls!! You are very brave for writing this post! Thank you for writing and spreading awareness of phobias it's very important! I hope everything gets easier for you! Stay strong xxx


    Thrifty vintage fashion

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    1. Sorry to hear that you struggle with phone anxiety too :( It makes adulting so difficult! Don't worry, neither did I :D I googled it hahaha. Thankyou :) x

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  2. I LOVE this post. I'm also a phobia sufferer and know the frustrations of trying to explain to people that I literally can't be put in front of my phobia without tightening of the chest, panic and sobbing. I hope phobias become more understood one day (and better treatments are developed and become available on the NHS).

    Morag x
    www.moadore.co.uk

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    1. Thankyou, I'm really glad you enjoyed it :) Oh no, sorry that you struggle with phobias too. The symptoms of anxiety/panic attacks are horrible *hugs* I too hope phobias are more understood some day, I'm sick of hearing people try to play down people's phobias, make fun of them and to say things like 'it's not that scary!' x

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