Phone phobia

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Phone phobia is a psychological condition in which one experiences extreme fear or avoidance of using the telephone. The fear may be more intense with regard to either making or receiving phone calls; in the latter case, it can intensify to the point where the phone-phobic is afraid even to listen to voice-mail (answering machine) messages.

Aliases: phonephobia, phone-phobia, telephobia

Discussion / Forums

Phone phobia denial dude.jpg

The discussion here (HypertWiki) started with Harena & Woozle's posts in 2005.


Based on the anecdotes collected here, the causes of phone-phobia appear to vary somewhat although there do seem to be some recurring patterns, including:

  • fear of confrontation (why are you calling me?)
  • fear of ridicule (why do I want to talk to you?)
  • fear of miscommunication:
    • fear of being misunderstood
    • fear of misunderstanding
    • fear of forgetting what you wanted to convey
    • fear of forgetting what you were told while on the phone
  • fear of irreversibly prejudging someone based on their voice alone:
    • fear of hearing the voice of someone you have not yet met but plan to meet in the future for fear of disliking the quality of their voice and inappropriately prejudging the person out of context
    • is this kind of like where you have that pre-judged opinion stuck in your head and can't get rid of it even after you meet the person? Please feel free to describe in more detail on the discussion page. -W.
  • (cell phones only) fear of cell phones causing cancer. Although scientific studies have not shown a correlation, there are reasons not to trust these results completely; also, fear also does not necessarily operate on a rational basis, even if the connection were completely disproven by trusted parties.
  • (anonymous user said:) fear of someone hearing your voice on the other line or hearing your own voice. Can make you uncomfortable. (Woozle adds: can you describe this in more detail? Is it only on the phone?)
  • (anonymous user said:) It Can Also Be Scary Talking To Someone That You Can't See
  • anonymous user suggested that one of the causes of phone-phobia might be "becoming a first year financial advisor". I'm not sure what is meant by this, so if the poster would be so good as to explain further... is a first year financial advisor subject to a lot of really unpleasant phone calls?
  • (anonymous user said:) Fear of calling and reaching the wrong person, fear of calling said person at an inconvenient time and being a bother or making the recipient mad at you.
  • (anonymous user said:) Fear of lull in conversation and not being present to make a distraction.
  • Fear of running out of things to say, or not knowing what to say.
  • Fear of stuttering.
  • Fear of appearing boring. On the internet, you can take your time to respond in a creative way. On the phone, no time to think and sometimes you run out of things to say at all, and the silence is terrifying.


Practical obstacles which can contribute to avoidance of making calls:

  • You can't do part of a phone call now and then finish it later. (Interruptions sometimes make it necessary to do things in more than one part. Also, sometimes you get part way into a communication and realize you are lacking key information, or are going about it the wrong way, leading to...)
  • You can't start a phone call over again if you realize (partway through) that you started out wrong.
  • A successful phone call requires calling at the same time the other person is available to take the call (unless they have voicemail... but the mental preparation required to have a phone conversation is not the same as the mental preparation required for leaving a message, and there is usually no way to know in advance which it will be).
  • Phone calls often require talking to several different people first, and waiting on hold, before you get to the person you actually want to speak with. This is annoying and time-consuming.