Talk:Phone phobia/2007

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01/14 - Ginaphobia

My fear is mainly calling someone though ocassionly if a number I don't know calls me I will pass the phone off to a friend to answer... Mostly my fear is that the person will be busy, not want to talk to me, or for some reason angry that I called. And not being able to read their facial expression to judge how they're feeling about whatever we're saying bothers me quite a bit. I dont have a problem answering messages... it was on the other hand very scary for me while trying to record a my voicemail message(if you hear it you'd picture a cornered rabbit). I get very nervous leaving people messages too. It's good to know I'm not alone on this!!

02/16 - SpazBomB

I am totally stunned to find I am not alone. I've had many of the symptoms shared here for over 10 years now and have been unable to call it a real phobia until now. I've even had problems convincing anyone including my family that this was actually something serious. My problem occurs when calling anyone other than a business, its an overpowering fear that the person on the other side does not want to talk to me or despises me for calling, which is reinforced by the same awkward phone issues that have been pegged down here.

At my worst I have had anxiety attacks, nausea, trembles, and sweat before being forced to make an important call that could not be resolved by a face to face talk. I am not as bad now, I spent some time outside of the US working in a situation where phone calls were a matter of work and survival, though I still have to rehearse and motivate myself a good 15 minutes prior.

I know where my phobia originated though. Back in the day before caller ID and wireless phones I had a childhood friend who would call me nearly three to five times a day and would sit on the line. I began to despise picking up the phone and wasting so much time being tied to one spot, I even began to despise him and other friends who would call. I stopped answering the phone and my parents did not want to deal with it so I became malicious leading to a series of answering machine fights with this kid. Now I am terrified that others feel the same way I do when I call them.

Woozle comments

Wow, that's interesting – especially that you can remember specifically how it started. Thinking about it, I can remember a specific incident in preschool where they had me call a bank to ask a question about currency, for my daily journal entry. What I can't remember is whether this was an attempt to break me of an existing phone-phobia, whether they were trying to break me of an existing social phobia (which was almost certainly in evidence by then) or whether they had no real idea that it would be especially hard for me.
I can also remember my dad being particularly angry about people calling at dinner-time (this was also in the day before answering machines, when not answering one's phone was considered rude and possibly dangerous – 1970s), and I remember being afraid to call other people for fear that they would be angry for similar reasons (regardless of the time of day... but how do I know what times of day they might be busy with stuff like that? Not that I take that reasoning seriously anymore, but it matches the pattern of yours – an aversion with a known cause that doesn't go away (or even gets worse) after the cause disappears.
--Woozle 21:13, 16 February 2007 (EST)
P.S. I'm lately thinking that a lot of it has to do with organizational/communicative issues I have – I often have trouble coming up with answers to relatively simple questions (in voice-realtime, anyway; in email or even IM/IRC it's not a problem because there's much less demand to keep the flow of conversation going), and I'm afraid (with justification) that this will happen in the middle of a phone call. I also know that when I do break down and actually make a vitally important call, I often feel awful for hours afterwards, even if the call went well. I'm wondering if any of these symptoms sound familiar to anyone else. -W.

03/20 - Jenny

I have a similar thing - its funny but it used to be exactly how you guys describe it above - the fear of ringing someone in case they dont want to talk to you but get trapped on the phone out of politeness - and there you are blabbing away oblivious to the negative response. But now i am not so scared of that - not because it doesnt cross my mind - but because i just dont care about how people react quite so much anymore. Thats not to say i really dont care about them or their feelings but just that i have come to realise that you cant go through life being fearful of what other people think of you - there is not all that much you can do about that. You can only be a nice person - making a phone call really isnt a crime anyone should hold against you and if they do then they are not all that worth knowing in the first place.

Despite this new found revelation on friendship - which has made using the phone easier for me - my phone phobia still hasnt disappeared. Oh no. Its just there in another form. I can ring people for specific reasons, either at work or friends with only a tiny bit of nervousness which then dissapears, but actually answering the phone to then transfer it to someone esle is giving me real trouble. I have specifically avoided having any secretarial like role in my career - but i find that i have now been asked to answer the phone despite the fact its not really my job - and i just cant do it. The fear of answering the phone, taking someones name, transfering it correctly, taking all necessary details, without asking them the same question about three times and transfering them to the wrong person - while still concentrating on my own work just seems impossible to me. I have been asked to do this before and i am rubbish at it and ultimately embarrass and ridicule myself at work. But this whole inability to answer the phone is more embarrassing anyway so im just trapped in a completely awful situation.


[anonymous user said:] hi jenny! i hope i'm doing this right as i've never used this site before. i just wanted to say that i have almost an identical story. i used to be deathly afraid of phones, but now i have reached a point where i can communicate with friends. granted, i still prefer texting, but i CAN pick up the that is definitely an improvement!
HOWEVER, the work scenario has not changed for me. i recently took a job in retail and shudder inside every time the phone rings. only ONCE have i actually picked it up (oh, my poor coworkers...), and when i did, i started shaking and sweating profusely. i ultimately told the customer to...get his question!
oh, this phone phobia. i wish i knew of a way to overcome it. :(

03/27 - Ivan --- from Chile

  • When: 2007-03-27 21:37

This is very interesting since ive developed a true discuss to phone RINGINGs, i actually hate to answer the phone, and most of the times i dont- Ive actually configured my cell phone to just ring one tone at the lower volume, so i can call afterwards if i HAVE to but at the same time im able (if silent enough) to notice the call, and ive modified my home telephone putting a led light in the ringing circuit, so i can SEE the call with the bell almost off... just a lower cracking sound (i modified the speaker on the phone to be that low, but i still can turn it up if i want to). But where's the phobia: the ringing sound started bothering me while driving, (since you shouldnt answer it) i tried to overcome the sound for a while after such i just began to put it off... but beacuse of my work i CANT do that all time--- and it was then when my home phone started threatening me, the fact of ANSWERING it was a slavery, and the feeling grew with time. I know this is actually the "other" end of what's being discussed here, but its still related and its giving me hard time to overcome the numerous electronic alarms everywere... Think about it--- Microwaves, clock alarms, MSN, elevators, wrist watches, electronic tone alarms of any kind are a true slavery, but we dont notice them... what if we start noticing them, developing as a phobia... Im about with phones, i dont want to feel menaced with all of them.

Woozle comments

Just a quick thought: is it possible that you have hyperacusis? It doesn't sound like hyperacusis would explain the whole problem, but it might be a contributing factor. --Woozle 06:58, 28 March 2007 (EDT)

07/24 - Amber

  • Who: Amber from Michigan
  • When: ~2007-07-24

My problem is different than yours. Mine is that I fear who will pick up, or who is on the line. With caller ID I'm usually okay but when I have to call someone else I'm especially anxious because I have no way of knowing who will pick up. This is because I think my mom used to always call me and bitch me out which made me try to avoid adverse conversations on the phone and eventually the phone all together.

Woozle comments

Actually, that rings a bell for me. See my earlier comment under SpazBomB's entry about how my dad always used to yell and gripe about people who called during dinnertime -- so I was always afraid of calling someone "at the wrong time", because who knows when they might be eating dinner (different people have different mealtimes) or doing something else which they might be annoyed to have interrupted.
This obviously only applies to calling non-business numbers, but actually a lot of the phone calls I had to make early in adulthood were (a) calling customers to provide tech support, and (b) trying to find a place to live in Providence, where many rental units were owned & operated by families (you would often end up talking to the elderly Italian grandmother who was barely understandable). So this particular fact might have played a large part in shaping my early aversion. --Woozle 20:24, 24 July 2007 (EDT)

09/19 - Pukapop - Sooo... anybody figured out how to cure this yet???

HELP ME!!! It's embarrassing, but thank goodness I am not the only one. I hate the phone, hate hate hate it. I don't know for sure where this all came from, but I am sure it stems from many points of my early childhood--I won't bore anyone with all my personal possible causes. Everyone's comments seem so familiar to me, for the most part, but I fear (ha ha) that my Fear has gone way off the deep-end on this one. I can't make calls, and I can't answer them. I only text from my cellphone, I Instant Message people, I e-mail, I write letters, but I ignore all phone calls. Whether I know who it is or not, I never answer the phone unless it is specifically a friend who I am on my way to meet up with and either I or they are lost. I text-message while driving (yeah, highly-illegal and extremely unsafe), and lie to people when I don't call back, making up all kinds of excuses. They believe me, for a little while. My credit was stolen in 2004 by a girl I considered to be my best friend, and I still haven't been able to call these businesses and tell them what happened or to leave me alone, so they leave angry messages on my parents' answering machine, and I just end up lying to my parents by telling them that I am handling it. But I never can. It eats me up inside, I feel like I am going to break down and cry at the thought of making phone calls, I fall fast into a spiralling depression that lasts for as long as I think about having to call anybody, so I keep putting it off by telling myself I will feel stronger tomorrow, and to just put it out of my mind. But the truth is, I have so many calls I need to make, so many things that are past the point of my being able to handle, and so many people I hurt by not being able to just get on the god-foresaken telephone, that I am constantly depressed by it. Whenever I try to fight through it, my throat seizes up and swells like I have an entire apple caught in it, my voice starts to tremble and I am no longer in control of myself. My mind starts racing as I can feel the panic growing, but the only thought that comes in clearly is "Hurry up and get off, say whatever they want to hear, and hang up." But then afterwards, yeah i am so proud that I did it, but I have no memory of what they said, and I recount all the other things I needed to discuss with them which my hasty retreat has kept me from dealing with. I recently lost my job five months ago (not phone phobia related), and I have missed out on countless numbers of opportunities because... well, I just can't call them back! Now my family is getting angry, perceiving it for sheer laziness and an unwillingness to work, when in reality, it is all that I want. If anybody out there is now or has ever been as torn-up over this "unrecognized phobia" PLEASE post something! I have been alienated by this for way too long.

Woozle replies

Wow, that sounds even more intense than my issues. Maybe some of my solutions will work for you, though. In any case, you're definitely not alone (as these web pages prove!).

First... please feel free to email me, IM me, or even come into the chat rooms, if you're comfortable with realtime text conversations (contact info). #hypertwins is probably the channel to go to if you're nervous; that's the channel we specifically set up, so it's for whatever we say it's for ;-) and it can certainly be for talking about phone-phobia. (Don't be worried if nobody answers at first; we tend to lurk a lot, so there are long gaps (hours!) when nobody is paying attention -- but we'll see what you typed in the scrollup, and can answer when we get back.)

Second... from personal experience, which I think your experience echoes strongly, shame (a feeling of worthlessness) is one of the worst aspects of this thing. Learning to feel like you deserve to exist as a human being in spite of not being able to do something so "easy and simple" as making a phone call is something that is important to focus on; otherwise it spirals still further -- the feeling of worthlessness makes it harder to deal with phoning, which makes the shame worse, and so on.

Third (or maybe this should be first): I am not a professional counselor and am in no way officially "qualified" to give advice on this issue -- but for all I can tell, nobody has been paying any attention to it yet; we're still at the stage of convincing the professionals that it's a real problem. (Harena's personal cognitive therapist, who is a pretty open-minded and reasonable guy, seems to have gotten it, but I don't think he had ever run into it before.) If there's any way at all for you to talk to a counselor about this, I'd recommend looking into that. We have personally had good experience with the "cognitive therapy" school of counseling. Also, avoid the higher-level academic degrees; H's therapist has a degree in social work. (You should be able to find some that will set up appointments via email; that's how we got started.) That said, I have no problem at all with continuing to give you my personal advice.

Next... solutions.

Parents and other well-meaning people may advise you to just grit your teeth, pick up the phone, and do it. I have found this to be a recipe for disaster. You might end up successfully making the current top-priority phone call, but it will only increase your aversion to making the next one.

My approach has been twofold, which I'll summarize here and then explain below: (1) do everything you can to make phoning unnecessary, so as to drastically reduce the number of "unavoidable" calls. (2) when a call is really "unavoidable", do everything you can to get to a point where you feel ready for it before you actually do it.

1. make phoning unnecessary -- some techniques:

Use email whenever possible. If people don't respond to email, send the email as a fax or letter (I often scribble "haven't heard back -- did you receive this?" on the printout). If you have a friend who's willing to help out, have them call to ask if the email/fax/letter was received.

Vonage now has a service which will transcribe received messages into text. It costs, so we decided not to use it (I have some avoidance with listening to messages, but it's pretty mild), and so I don't know how good it is -- but you can sign up for Vonage phone service without having to use the phone at all. (You'll need to have broadband internet for it to work, though.)

Do "phoning triage" -- if you think you could handle, say, one phone call a month as long as you could be sure you wouldn't have to deal with the damn thing the rest of the month, then work out what your most important call is, and do just that call -- and to hell with the rest of them. Guilt is the motivation-killer.

2. make sure you're ready

This gets into the specifics of why one avoids phoning, and your reasons may be different from mine; I'll tell you what has worked for me and what the underlying mechanisms seem to be, and hopefully this will help you figure out what's going on in your head and therefore what might help you.

Some background:

What I've noticed about phone calls is that during a conversation I will sometimes get what I think of as "mental pain spikes" -- almost like an electric shock, in retrospect, but at the time it just feels like PANIC and FAILURE -- which seem to be caused by certain situations, and that it is these "spikes" that are the major thing causing the aversion. (Shocks are often used in so-called "aversion therapy" when psychologists are trying to encourage an aversion to something harmful, so it would seem like a no-brainer that an internal shock-like feeling would cause much the same effect.)

One of those situations is when I ask a question and the other person replies with something incomprehensible to me -- what they said sounds reasonable or sensible, but I don't seem to be able to pick out the answer to my question in what they've said. (Panic!) Another is where they give me information, but it's somehow not the sort of answer or information I was expecting, and I don't know what to say next in order to get closer to getting whatever it was that I wanted in the first place, the reason I made the damn phone call. (Panic!) In general, the pattern seems to be that something unplanned-for or unexpected happens, and the amount of time I need in order to puzzle it out is too long -- longer than what feels like a comfortable gap between lines of dialogue.

So one thing I try to do is get as much information as possible clarified in both directions (reduce both the number of questions I might have to ask and the number of questions the other person might have to ask, as well as the number of mistaken assumptions either one of us might be making) so as to greatly simplify the conversation. The best way to do this, of course, is if you can get in touch via email first -- which you might think would eliminate the need for the conversation altogether, but some people apparently just "like to talk", and it can be really difficult to explain to them that this is a problem for you, because for them it is easier. The best strategy for this seems to be a sort of passive resistance -- keep emailing doggedly until they force the issue by calling you.

One really great way to reduce conversational complexity, though, which almost always works, is the fax/mail approach I mentioned above. If you've already sent them a message explaining what you need, then all you have to do when calling is (1) give your name, and (2) ask if they received the message (email, fax, or letter) you sent. Even if you end up talking to several layers of receptionists, you just have to add one more bit of information (who you're trying to reach). "Hi, my name is __ and I'm trying to reach __." They will then either say "Oh, __ isn't in, may I take a message?" or "Let me connect you..." or, at worst, "May I ask what this is in regard to?" -- at which point the answer is "I sent him/her a letter last week, and I just wanted to make sure s/he got it." Totally non-confrontational, and puts the onus on them to find the letter and read it.

And finally... it looks like I need to expand the "phone-phobia" section of this site, and maybe set up a BBS-style forum to make it easier to post comments (most people apparently aren't used to wiki-style discussion). If you create an account on this wiki, you can "watch" these pages, and the wiki software will send you a notification whenever anything changes. (And no, I don't give out or sell my contact information to anyone.)

Please do feel free to get in touch, though; we have a very supportive community on VillageIRC, including at least one other phone-phobia sufferer.

--Woozle 08:54, 20 September 2007 (EDT)

10/17 - anonymous - Bittersweet to hear I'm not the only one

I'm not really sure if this is real or not! I'm in complete shock that anyone else in this world even remotely understands my fear/pain. This has been my life for many years and I too have lost many friends over one (or lack there of) phone call. I was fortunate enough to have someone make an appointment with a pshyciatric group for me. Even with that no one there was able to help, other then to tell me I was depressed. Well, no kidding!!! This is the worst aspect of my life and I'm beginning to think it will be what takes my life too. Thank you all so much for giving me hope and for the first time ever, UNDERSTANDING!!!!

For me, I feel more hatred for hearing the phone ring then fear. No, I don't make calls either but I never really saw it as a fear before. Also, there is one person that I (almost)always answer for. Sometimes I'm even happy to make calls, only to certain people of course. Although I usually feel guilty after hanging up because I don't remember the conversation.Either I'm so proud of myself for making the call or so anxious to get off the phone. This just in turn makes the next call with that person worse. It's a snowball effect. Next time I do talk to them, I don't want to hear them complain about "where have you been"or "what took you so long" I HATE IT. Those two questions are reasons why I never returned calls to people who were very close to me and in turn avoided them feeling embarrassed and ultimately losing them. Maybe, it would help if I knew why, but I really just want to get over this.

Woozle replies

The psychiatric profession seems to be slow to pick up on this one; they always want to try "de-sensitization", if they aren't in the "just do it!" camp.

I may have a solution worth trying -- for getting treatment, that is, not a "cure" outright -- but I have to do some research, in my extremely limited time, so please keep checking back here, or even better contact me.

So far nobody who has posted here ever seems to come back for more discussion; possibly guilt? I know very well the power that guilt and shame have. Just keep trying -- if you can't make yourself do it today, try again another day. Whatever you do, don't decide you're useless and end it all. This thing is not your fault.

If at all possible, nag me about this. My idea (so far) is to work out a way to make connections between phone-phobia sufferers, wherever they may be, and a friendly therapist I know locally -- via email or text chat, not phone! -- as well as setting up forum software to make it easier to post comments here.

--Woozle 15:00, 17 October 2007 (EDT)

11/16 - anonymous - i'm also a phone phobic!

Gosh, I thought I'm the only one in this whole wide world who have this problem.Few weeks back, I read several part-time job ads and the ads only listed a phone number and name of a person that I should talk with.Well..till this day I haven't made any phone calls yet because I don't like talking to strangers.I hate it and I feel scared..and I don't know why on earth should I feel scared talking to another human being.Many times I tried to force myself to pick up the phone and call the companies but I just can't.I keep postponing doing it and I feel depressed thinking about it.I think it all began when I was young,I made several calls to companies and government agencies to ask about something.Most of them answer my calls in a rude manner as if I'm disturbing them with silly questions.I also don't like talking over the phone with friends because I always don't know what to say to make the conversation interesting.Anyway,today I'm going to make one phone call to one of the companies.I think I should put the fears behind and make the call!'s easier said than done :-)

12/31 - anonymous

Haha, like everyone else here, I am so surprised to find that others are dealing with this same problem that I've had for ages now... email has always been my favoured form of communication, and having had more than a few online-friends, I wasn't really forced to use the phone much. Now that I'm in college I have to call professor's offices, advisors, etc. and it's fairly awful - it's not that I can't think of things to say, or that I just forget what I was calling about, but it's just the dialing, calling, and waiting that makes me get all shaky and faint.

The apprehension of calling people at their offices or at their work is worse, I think because it's hard to know when they'll be available to talk and if I'm bothering them at all by calling. It's gotten to the point where I just have to find all possible ways to avoid the phone until I know the person will be away and then will have to call me back. I've thought about talking to my counsellor about this but I don't know, it seems pretty embarrassing to have to admit that I've nearly passed out from knowing I'd have to call someone out of the blue to ask about something.

It's kind of easier knowing that I have no friends anymore that I have to call, but setting up appointments and making reservations and stuff just kills me, until they answer and everything seems to go fine. Blah. It sucks and it's cool to know there are more of you out there.

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