Telephone phobia

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Telephone phobia (telephonophobia, telephobia) is reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls, literally, "fear of telephone".[1] Telephone phobia is also considered to be a type of social phobia or social anxiety problem.[1] It is often compared to glossophobia, in that both require engaging with an audience to a certain extent, followed by the fear of being criticized, judged or made a fool of.[2]

As is common with various fears and phobias, there is a wide spectrum of severity of the fear of phone conversations and the corresponding difficulties.[1] In 1993 it was reported that about 2.5 million people in Great Britain have telephone phobia.[3]

The term Telephone Apprehension refers to a lower degree of telephone phobia, where it is the anxiety derived from telephones, but less severe than that of an actual phobia.[4]

These people may have no problem communicating face to face, but have difficulty doing so over the telephone.

Fear and cause[edit]

The fear of telephones can range from the action or thought of answering and receiving calls to the actual ringing produced by the telephone. The ringing sound can generate a string of anxieties, characterized by thoughts associated with having to speak, perform and converse.[2] Many of those suffering from this phobia may perceive the other end as threatening or intimidating,[5] or may worry about finding an appropriate time to call, in fear of being a nuisance. One other source of anxiety can come from the low quality voice and that people on the receiving end won't understand what the calling end is saying, or vice versa. Another source of anxiety comes from the lack of body language, which no longer becomes available through the telephone and results in the individual losing their sense of control.[5] Past experiences, such as overhearing something traumatic or an unpleasant and angry call, may also play a part in creating fear.[2] Sufferers typically report fear that they would fail to respond appropriately in a telephone conversation,[1] and fear finding nothing to say, which would end in embarrassing silence, stammering, or stuttering.[1] The associated avoidance behavior includes asking others (e.g. relatives at home) to take their phone calls and exclusive use of answering machines.[1]

Another reason is the sufferers may believe that people who call them bear bad or upsetting news, or that the person on the other end may be a prank caller.


A variety of symptoms can be seen in someone suffering from telephone phobia, many of which are shared with anxiety. Some symptoms include nervous stomach, sweaty palms,[2] rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea, dry mouth and trembling. The sufferer may experience feelings of panic, terror and dread.[6] Resulting panic attacks can include hyperventilation and stress. These negative and agitating symptoms can be produced by both the mere thought of making and receiving calls and the action of doing so.


The telephone is important for both contacting others and accessing important and useful services. As a result, this phobia causes a great deal of stress and impacts peoples' personal lives, work lives and social lives.[7] As a result, the sufferers avoid many activities, such as scheduling events or clarifying information.[8] Strain is created in the workplace specifically because work with telephones may play a crucial role within the career.[5]


Phobias of this sort can usually be treated by different types of therapies, including: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, behavior therapy and exposure therapy.[6] Other suggested actions consist of planning the conversation ahead of time and rehearsing, writing or noting down what needs to be said.[2]

Practice also plays an important factor in overcoming fear. It is helpful to the sufferers to increase phone usage at a slow pace, starting with simple calls and gradually working their way up. For example, starting with automated calls, moving to family and friends and then further extending the length of the conversations and with whom the conversations are being held.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Social Phobia: From Shyness to Stage Fright", by John R. Marshall, 1995, ISBN 0-465-07896-6, Section "Telephone Phobia"
  2. ^ a b c d e Doctor, Ronald M. (2000). The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties. United States, America: Facts On File, Inc. p. 493. ISBN 0-8160-3989-5. 
  3. ^ As cited in: "The Newspapers Handbook". By Richard Keeble, Third edition, 2001, ISBN 0-415-24083-2, p. 64
  4. ^ Fielding, Richard G. "Telephone apprehension : a study of individual differences in attitudes to, and usage of the telephone.". Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Rowlands, Barbara (24 August 1993). "Health: Don't call me, please, and I won't call you: To most of us, the ringing of the phone is at least a potential pleasure. But to some it is a source of anguish. Barbara Rowlands reports". The Independent. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Telephonophobia". Right Diagnosis. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Doctor, Ronald M. (2000). The Encyclopedia of Phobias, Fears, and Anxieties. United States, America: Facts On File, Inc. p. 493. ISBN 0-8160-3989-5. 
  8. ^ "Break the bipolar cycle: a day-by-day guide to living with bipolar disorder", by Elizabeth Brondolo, Xavier Amador, p. 179