Monday, July 31, 2017

Dealing With Phone Anxiety






Telephone phobia is not a new thing – after all, it was listed in The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties, long before the iPhone, Droid, or Galaxy Nexus ever came into our lives.   It might not be new, but in this age of text messages that demand instant responses, or robocalls that never seem to end, there are more and more people who’ve come to despise the sound of their own ringtones.

Two of our columnists have joined me for this post since all three of us have some degree of telephone anxiety.  What follows is a roundtable discussion with Marie Davino (Natural Healing Gal), Jeff Lemlich, and myself, as we try to understand and come to terms with this growing problem.


Jeff: Everywhere I go, I see people talking on their cell phones.   I know people that can chatter away for hours at a time, day after day after day.   To many (maybe most), that’s the way things are and the way things should be.   But I’m not like that.   Not even close.

I have telephone anxiety.  When someone says “call me,” I immediately try to see if I can text or email instead.   I don’t just hate talking on the phone – sometimes I fear it.  Sometimes it makes me shake, or lose what seems like half of my vocabulary.


Don: Phone anxiety is not fun for me.  There have been times I’ve been okay with it and other times when it becomes a living torment every day.  The phone was a constant source of anxiety for me just before I was paralyzed (insert blog post link).  After I got out of the hospital, hearing the phone ring would bring on an anxiety attack.  With time, I learned to get over it.


Marie:  I have had this issue with phone anxiety for as long as I can remember. I can feel it now just thinking about it. I avoid the phone most of the time. I procrastinate listening to messages to avoid making the call ... and the longer I let it go, the more shame I feel, because it seems it is something so simple.


Don: When the phone rings, it feels like a tornado siren going off that will not stop.  I find it disruptive and annoying at best.  Most of the time, there are phone spammers and scammers on the other end that I have no desire to talk to at any time of the day.


Jeff: I had no trouble talking on the phone when I was a teenager, back when everyone in the house shared a single phone line.   I don’t know if years as a TV news producer, assignment editor, and researcher (pre-internet) burned me out on reaching out and touching someone, but it sure hit me in a big way… and still does.


Don: I had a recent job that had me on the phone from early morning until late night.  I would do conference calls, and for the most part, I was okay with it.  However, I was doing so much travel that at times I think the phone became my companion.  Even with me being able to handle it, I know towards the end of the job that the phone was becoming a knife that would stab me every time it rang.


Marie: When I do make a call, most of the time I do so well, you would think that it would build my confidence and the next time would be easier. It doesn't... and it isn't. There is always the possibility of that humiliating feeling of drawing a blank. Words disappear. I can't think. I want to sleep.  I go numb and disappear somewhere inside myself. It also happens in normal conversations in person. When I "come back," I have missed half the conversation, and I inevitably say something stupid, and I get that look of "what did she just say?" The embarrassment is overwhelming.


Jeff: I can usually handle short phone calls.   I like when the conversation gets right to the point.  After about 20 or 30 minutes, I start to pace, and before too long it becomes clear that the call must come to an end.


I can’t stand one more minute.   I can’t stand one more second… and it doesn’t matter who’s on the line.   It could be the most important people in my life.   When I reach that point of no return, that’s it.   Please, please, please stop talking!


Don: For me, it is pure torment when the phone rings unless I know someone is calling that is on my approved favorites list.  When the text messages come, and I’m not busy or just relaxing, they are okay, but for the most part, I find them disruptive.

Getting awakened by the phone early in the morning, especially from phone scammers, does not yield a good reaction from me.  Some days I want to pound the phone into oblivion.


Marie: The anxiety can be so frustrating. It bleeds over to my relationship with my husband. It leads to tense moments; we have arguments over it. He does not have this issue. He loves to talk on the phone, and so it makes no sense to him. Or maybe he does have the issue, but he is able to push it aside and do it anyway. I do not know why some people can push through the troubles in their lives and some have so much more difficulty. At least, that is how it looks in my view of the world!


Don: I get this intense anxiety that comes over me and shows up as profuse sweating.  It will soak my clothes in less time than sitting in a steam room for a few minutes.  It angers me because there are people that I do love talking to on the phone, but it has made this difficult.


Marie: Most people don't understand... and I hear, so what, just get over it.  Well, if it holds me back so much, which it does, and I could just "get over it," why wouldn't I? Am I just lazy? Is it because I am sabotaging myself? I ask myself these questions often.


Don: I can feel the anxiety and anger kick up big time when all of this happens.  So far, I can’t identify why it happens or how to hold it down.  I’m still working on this part of my life.

I try to moderate some of this by shutting off the text message sound, but the phone still vibrates.  At times, I unplug the main phone, so I don’t have to hear it ring.  I wish I could say I have this under control, but lately, the phone had better be thankful I don’t keep my hammer nearby for it would meet its untimely demise.


Marie: I wonder if there is an answer. If there is, I have not found it yet... but in my business, I found someone else to make the calls now.  It has taken a huge burden off me.


Jeff: As you see, I’m not alone in this.  If someone you know is balking at giving you a call, try to understand that not everyone was born to chat.   It’s not that we don’t want to talk to you.   It’s just that, sometimes, we can’t.



Thank You you everyone for this discussion and thank you to Jeff for pulling this blog post together.  I hope that by all of us sharing what we experience it will help someone else understand the anxiety they face.  This is something I am working on in my own life.


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Blog Post And Images (c) 2017 by Don Shetterly
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