General social anxiety is a well-known issue affecting millions of people. Telephobia, or the fear of talking on the phone, is an offshoot of social anxiety. It encompasses those who feel real fear and discomfort associated with making and receiving phone calls. And, in today’s connected world, it can be surprisingly crippling.
Social Anxiety and Telephobia
Social anxiety involves a broader scope than telephobia. Most social anxiety sufferers have challenges with social interactions through a variety of mechanisms. And that list includes phone calls.
Telephobia is more specific. It directly relates to real fears about talking on the phone. But, outside of phone calls, the person may have no other social anxieties. In fact, a telephobia sufferer might be an excellent and confident public speaker. But, if you put a phone in their hand, all bets are off.
As reported by the BBC, phone-based interactions are complex. And some find them almost impossible to manage.
The Implications of Telephobia
Social anxiety and employment issues go hand-in-hand. Everything from job interviews, staff meetings, and customer interactions fall in the social space. In some cases, those with severe social anxiety even seek employment opportunities designed to avoid the triggers their anxiety.
While telephobia isn’t that limiting, it still creates challenges in the workplace. First of all, few jobs include no phone-based interactions. Customers or clients call, discussions with coworkers in other locations often require the phone, and many basic job requirements make phone calls almost unavoidable. That means sufferers of telephobia might have difficulty maintaining employment in positions where the use of telephones is a significant requirement. Additionally, even answering the phone to get a job offer or calling in sick to work may feel almost unmanageable. Because of those challenges, telephobia sufferers can’t participate in areas others find easy even if there are repercussions for those actions.
Sources of the Anxiety
Some people fear coming off as foolish over the phone. This includes uncomfortable pauses, stumbling over sales pitches, or simply concern about “saying something wrong.” Others have issues continuing conversations in the moment without some of the social cues provided by in-person interactions. It is also often uncomfortable speaking with someone you don’t know, or at least have never met in-person.
Many people avoid their phobia by relying on alternate forms of communication, such as email or text messages. Written communication eliminates the surprise element, and allows the recipient to craft their response before sending the reply. Often, it gives the person more control over the interaction, including precisely what they say, how they say it, and when they give the response.
Increases in telephobia instances might grow as more members of the Millennial generation enter the workplace. Those who grew up with cellular technology and smartphone use as part of the norm might not be accustomed to the phone-based interactions more common in business. Essentially, they had less practice than previous generations, so the interactions are more foreign in nature.
Working through the Anxiety
With the help of a professional, it is possible to work through telephobia-related anxiety. One approach is cognitive behavioral therapy. Those suffering from the anxiety learn to understand that phone calls do not pose a serious threat. Examining worst-case scenarios demonstrate the low level of danger involved. Over time, many patients begin making simple phone calls, like ordering food for delivery and progress from there.
It is important to work with a professional if your anxiety is affecting your ability to work or conduct your life in a normal manner. They have the ability to assess your needs and create a treatment plan designed specifically for you.