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What It's Like to Be Afraid of Talking on the Phone

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I have touched on my fear of using telephones before, but would like to go into it in more detail. According to Wikipedia, “Telephone phobia (telephonophobia, telephobia, phone phobia) is reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls, literally, ‘fear of telephones.’ It is considered to be a type of social phobia or social anxiety.

hate using the phone. I can count the number of people I can confidently talk to on the phone using just one hand. I much prefer text, email or Facebook messenger. Any of these are fine because then I have time to think about what to say, am not expected to reply right away and can delete anything I regret typing before I send it.

I cannot answer the phone when I don’t know whose calling. Many times our home phone has rung out unanswered while I stood over it, willing it to stop because I’m too scared to pick up. My mobile phone is a little easier because I have caller ID. If it’s a private number or an unknown number I won’t answer. But if it comes up with the name of the person calling I will more than likely pick up (though not always).

I will never leave a message on an answering machine. I feel silly talking to myself and usually mess up the message anyway. Either that or the machine cuts me off before I’m finished. As hypocritical as this may sound, I’d love for everyone who called me to leave a message when they rang. Then I’d know who they were and if a return phone call is warranted.

Making phone calls is just as bad. If it’s someone I know there is no issue, but if I have to make a call to a company or a place where I don’t know who is going to answer, I can’t do it.

As an example, a while back my husband asked me to find a gardener and call them to make a time for our jungle of a backyard to be mowed. I found a gardener and contact number, no problem. Then I spent the whole day getting worked up about actually picking up the phone and organizing the work to be done. This is what went through my head:

What if I have the wrong number? What if he doesn’t answer? Will I have to leave a message? What if I leave a message on a wrong number? What if I screw up the message and sound silly? What if I forget some important detail in the message and have to call again? What if he does answer and I freeze up and don’t know what to say? What if I pronounce his name wrong? What if I sound bad? What if he can’t come for a week? What if I double book something? What if he can’t do the job we need done? What if I have to call someone else? etc. etc.

You get the idea. Lots of “what if’s.” I got so worked up about making what should have been a simple phone call, my brain went into shut down mode and I started to panic. Eventually a friend made the call for me.

If I have to make an appointment to see the doctor or for some other thing, I would rather go to their office and make the appointment in person than pick up the phone. Which is only slightly less difficult because I don’t like crowds and I never know how busy a doctor’s office is going to be.

This is another issue that’s getting worse with time rather than better. I was always nervous to use the phone, but I could still do it. Now it’s becoming incredibly difficult. I am aware of how illogical this all sounds — but no amount of logic is helping when it comes to this issue. Phobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something. I have an extreme fear when it comes to using the telephone.

I have since learned this phobia is more common than I thought, and there are many people who have to deal with this to varying extents. For other people facing this problem, I would say there are other forms of communication and that’s OK. If email or texting is better for you and the other person is happy with that, then that’s great. Sometimes though, you have no other choice but to pick up the phone. It’s scary. I get it. But when you do finally work up the courage and make that phone call, you get a small feeling of achievement after. Maybe next time it might be a little easier.

Follow this journey on The Nut Factory.

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Originally published: January 23, 2017
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