What does it mean when it takes someone a long time to text you back?
Maybe they’re at work. Maybe their phone battery died. Maybe they’re having a bad day, and haven’t been able to look at their phone.
The possibilities are plentiful. But for those who live with anxiety disorders, it’s the unknown — those possibilities — that are enough to start a spiral of worries. Even though not everyone with anxiety will react in the same way, it can be stressful when you’re not sure why a loved one hasn’t gotten back to you.
To find out what people with anxiety worry about, we asked people in our mental health community to share one thing that goes through their mind when a friend doesn’t text back.
If you can relate, you’re not alone:
1. “Have I annoyed them? Have I said too much? Are they avoiding me for some reason? Is it just that my text doesn’t need an answer, even though I want a response? Are they too busy for me? Am I depending on them too much?” — Jocelyn H.
2. “It’s either I must’ve said something wrong or they’re too busy or I’m not important or good enough for them to have a conversation with. It’s these constant thoughts in my head that I’m always wrong. Everything I said or do is wrong. That’s why I’m too scared to say anything or even if I did, I’d probably figure they were just replying to make me feel better.” — Azis N.
3. “I’m a burden. I am a negative person in their life and they are better off when they aren’t associated or communicating with me in any way. Did I say something wrong? Is talking to me something you consider a chore that you hate doing but need to do regardless?” — Amanda W.
4. “I always think I’m annoying them. Or that I have unknowingly done something to upset or anger them. On a high anxiety day, I feel like this about anyone. Family, friends, even my husband. It is exhausting to feel unwanted, all because someone took a little too long to reply.” — Courtney W.
5. “Something catastrophic must have happened to them, or our relationship has suddenly and inexplicably imploded and I worry about what I said to make it that way.” — Lindsey S.
6. “My constant thought starts with: They are just talking to me or being my friend because it’s the polite thing to do. Not because they want to or because we are friends. When they don’t text back I assume I was being too much of a burden and they finally have had enough and have cut ties.” — Gwendalen R.
7. “I think they either are tired of hearing a pity party if I’m discussing a problem I have or that I’m bothering them/eating their time and they realize this.” — Matt Y.
8. “TBH, I usually go right to the extreme if I know that person isn’t at home. Kidnap, a trip and a fall breaking a bone, car crash. Those kind of things. It’s exhausting.” — Lucy J.
9. “They are dead. Hurt. In the hospital. In jail. In trouble. They’re ignoring me. Leaving. I said something and they’re gone. They opened it and are writing a long response to tell me off. They’re just tired of me and need a break. They’re talking to someone else. My head spins and hurts and it makes me sick just thinking what it might be over and over making it worse and worse.” — Amy M.
10. “I have a negative thought, when I hear the phone ring, fear of more bad news. Haven’t heard good news in a very long time. Too long. A negative thought after anything and everything I do or think, hard to enjoy anything. I can’t even breathe without a negative thought ruining my life experience.” — Matthew C.
11. “That they just look at their phone and think, ‘Ugh why is she texting me? I don’t like her. Doesn’t she get that I don’t want to talk to her?’ I always feel like I’m this burden and I’m bothering people. Even if it’s just a small conversion, or a question I’m asking there is always that voice in your head telling you that you’re wrong for texting them. Even if it’s your significant other, best friend, or family members.” — Jessica G.
12. “I feel as if I’ve done or said something wrong. I re-examine everything I’ve ever said to them just in case I’ve said something that has lead to them not responding.” — Eric R.
13. “They don’t care about me. They’re out having fun with people that aren’t exhausting to be around. I said something wrong again. They’ve seen the text, but I’m too much to deal with right now. They don’t want to say no again, so they’ll text back later and say they’re busy.” — Kim E.
14. “I usually think they don’t find talking to me interesting anymore. That they’re bored and that I’m not good enough or social enough to make them want to talk to me. I want to text them again to prove my theory is wrong, but I don’t, because I’m scared I’ll become annoying and clingy. I am not. I just fear they don’t like me anymore.” — Elitsa B.
15. “Have they just been being friendly? Was our ‘friendship’ just to not hurt my feelings? Do they hate me? What did I do to hate me? Did they take my tone wrong? Did they read it this way because I meant it this way? Maybe they put my messages on silent. They’re probably talking about me to their real friends. Am I bothering them too much? I hate texting first because I text back really quick and my mind runs a million miles an hour.” — Karrie N.
16. “When my boyfriend is out and he doesn’t answer I worry he might hate me, thinks I’m annoying or wants to break up even though nothing rational indicates he would. I don’t worry about my closest friends or family, I think it’s because I’ve known them for over 10 years/all my life.” — Elenor H.
17. “The number one question: have they finally gotten sick of me?” — Sarah C.
18. “I once was texting someone and they stopped texting me back for four hours. About an hour after they stopped a helicopter flew above my house and I immediately thought they were in a car accident. I knew it was insane but my mind still made me think it.” — Shelby S.
Although all these worries and fears feel real in the moment, we wanted to leave you with this:
“Has anyone ever gotten busy or forgotten to text back? I sure have. I struggle with severe anxiety, but I talk myself through things instead of letting the bad thoughts take over. If someone doesn’t text you back, 99.99 percent of the time that has nothing to do with you. Maybe they’re at work and couldn’t respond and then it escapes their mind. Maybe they are dealing with something themselves; i.e. anxiety. Don’t put yourself down because of other people’s reactions. Give them the benefit of the doubt as well. Also, if it is a recurring thing, then stop texting them! Stay positive people! You’re not a burden, you’re not ugly, you’re not always wrong and they’re not dead.” — Erica S.