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Let it go to voice mail again? What to do about phone anxiety

You may remember a time when talking on the phone was the fastest way to communicate with someone outside of your home. Times have certainly changed. Now you can constantly keep in touch with family and friends through text, Facebook messages, TikTok, Instagram, and more. There’s not necessarily a need to answer the phone.

However, sometimes it does ring, and some people experience phone anxiety. One 2019 study found that more than three-quarters of Millennials get anxious when they receive a call, and 61% of them intentionally don’t answer. This fear of talking on the phone can pose challenges at work and within relationships.

The good news is that there are solutions. Let’s discuss causes and ways to work through your anxiety about phone conversations.

woman holding green juice in one hand and a phone in the other
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why you have a fear of talking on the phone

Being anxious about speaking to someone on the phone is normal, and there are various reasons why it may be happening to you. Here are a few common ones:

  • You have social anxiety disorder. Individuals with social anxiety disorder often don’t enjoy being in social situations, and talking on the phone fits that bill.
  • You’re focused on what others think of you. One 2007 study found that people who were anxious about talking on the phone were also worried about what others thought of them. When you message someone on an app or via text, you have time to think before you respond. No one hears stutters, “ums,” or “likes.” You may find that buffer comforting.
  • Silence feels deafening. During text messages, you feel less pressure to fill space. You can simply stop texting someone — for all they know, you got caught up at work or are at dinner. On the phone, you may feel obligated to talk even if you don’t want to in an effort to avoid silences you find awkward.

Phone anxiety symptoms

Any anxiety will feel slightly different for each person, but there are some telltale physical and emotional signs. When it comes to worries about speaking on the phone, you may:

  • Notice your heart is racing when you hear your ring tone
  • Start shaking before or during the conversation
  • Feel like you are going to throw up
  • Have trouble concentrating on the discussion
  • Avoid making calls
  • Pick up the phone at the last possible second or consistently allow it to go to voicemail
  • Ruminate constantly about what you said on a call hours or even days after you hang up
  • Feel anxious about what others think of you
    woman on couch with a yellow lab

Ways to manage and cope with phone fears

  • Answer the phone. Facing your fears repeatedly can help you build confidence. Through exposure, you’ll learn that you can have a productive or fun conversation on the phone and that the person on the other end isn’t judging you.
  • Start small. You don’t have to aim for a 60-minute phone conversation right off the bat. Consider giving someone a call for five minutes. As your comfort level increases, work your way up to longer increments of 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and more.
  • Pick someone who makes you feel safe. Where possible, start by sticking to having phone conversations with people you know and who you don’t feel judge you. Explain the situation, and ask them to call you at a certain time.   
  • Get comfortable. Feeling physically and emotionally comfortable before and during the call may ease nerves. Sit on a comfortable couch, cuddle up with a pet, and then make or take the call.
  • Speak with a therapist. A therapist, particularly one who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you take a step back and evaluate your fears. While they may be valid, they also may not be necessary. The therapist can help you contextualize and ultimately feel more confident in yourself.

It is normal to be anxious about answering the phone. If it’s interfering with your work or day-to-day well-being, know that you deserve to feel better. Signs you may be experiencing anxiety over phone calls include avoidance (of making or answering calls), obsessing over what the person on the other line thinks of you, and an increased heart rate. Facing your fears can help you feel less anxious about answering the phone. A therapist specializing in CBT can also help you work through your issues by teaching you how to contextualize your feelings. Also, know that there’s hope on the other side. Research shows that even a 10-minute phone conversation can boost your mood.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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