Ignoring calls isn’t just a preference for everyone. For many, ignoring calls comes from phone phobia. Those who experience phone phobia may desperately want to take calls, but feel paralyzed. This can interfere with one’s ability to socialize and engage in other necessary life tasks.

So when ignoring calls feels out of control, or if you struggle with phone phobia, what can you do about it?

Let’s talk about the role of phone calls in modern life, how to know whether ignoring phone calls has become a problem in your life, and what to do to break through it. 

What is phone phobia?

Not to be confused with phonophobia (a fear of loud sounds), phone phobia is exactly what it sounds like. Phone phobia is a fear of phone calls that can result in ignoring calls or refraining from making calls.

If you have phone phobia, you may feel nervous or apprehensive when the phone rings or when you need to make a call yourself. You may also notice negative impacts on your life, outside of the fear itself.  

Other terms for phone phobia include telephone phobia, telephonophobia, and telephobia. Even if you don’t have a full-blown phobia of talking on the phone, it might still be something that you avoid or dread. This article can apply to people with milder symptoms, too.

If you have phone phobia or a problem ignoring calls, it isn’t just you. In fact, phone phobia is very common. 

How common is phone phobia?

A survey in Australia found that nearly half of Gen Z feel anxious about speaking on the phone. Almost 6 in 10 dread making or accepting even a necessary phone call, and 42% say that an awkward phone call is among one of the top three things they want to avoid.

Most of us agree that phone calls play a different role in our lives depending on the generation we grew up in, at least as a general statement. Phone phobia is likely more dominant in those who grew up with more advanced technology due to lack of practice or routine use. 

On the other hand, it may be less prevalent among those who had to make calls out of necessity without even having caller ID, like Baby Boomers or Gen X. However, phone phobia doesn’t affect Gen Z alone.  

Many of us prefer to speak face-to-face or over text, both of which are effective modes of communication in most instances. So, at what point does ignoring phone calls become a bad habit?

When are you ignoring calls “too much”?

Despite rising rates of excessive smartphone use among a range of age groups, people of all ages might avoid phone calls. If you have a phone phobia that has gotten out of hand, you might notice one or more of the following signs. 

You want to talk to friends or loved ones on the phone but can’t.

Again, a lot of us favor texting, DMs, or face-to-face conversations over a phone call. What about when a call is the only option?

Perhaps you have an older relative who calls you, but you find it tough to pick up the phone or call back. They haven’t figured out texting yet or aren’t on board to the extent that it can replace a phone call, so you lose touch with them. 

It could also be that you have friends you’d love to call or video chat with but fear or avoid doing so. For example, a long-distance friend around your age. 

Both of these are prime examples of how phone phobia could affect your social or family life.

It affects your well-being (e.g., you can’t make medical appointments). 

Do you put off things like making a doctor’s or dentist appointment due to phone phobia? If so, it is likely time to address the tendency to ignore calls. Online scheduling is amazing when the option is there, but unfortunately, it is not always available. This is an example of how phone phobia can affect your health directly.

It affects another area of life. 

Aside from interpersonal relationships and health, phone phobia can affect work and other parts of life tremendously. You could have a job that requires answering calls, and ignoring them could have serious consequences. Alternatively, the nervousness itself could come with unfavorable physical or emotional symptoms, even if the call is successful in the end. 

Similarly, you might need to make a call to get involved in a cause you care about (e.g., calling your representatives), finalize a loan, ask a question about the menu at a restaurant, or for another reason.

There are ways to push yourself to stop ignoring calls healthily and lower your distress if needed. Check out ideas below.

How to push yourself in a healthy way, *if* it could help you feel better or function more easily

Not all of us have much of a desire to talk on the phone more often. That said, if you do experience phone phobia, learning to cope with and overcome it could enhance your life and well-being – or reduce your stress levels substantially. 

There’s power in the “rip off the bandaid” technique. Dial the number, sit with your eyes closed, count to three, and press “call” (or answer the phone). However, this approach requires inner resources to overcome the discomfort.

Alternatively, if you give in to temptation and ignore a call, it’s perfectly reasonable to text after. Saying “What’s up? I can call you back in a few” can help you steel yourself for a verbal interaction. 

What are some other tips, though, that can help you beat phone phobia? Here’s how to grapple with and ultimately conquer several root causes of phone phobia.

1. Write a script.

Are you afraid that you’ll misspeak or lose your words and go silent on the phone? Many of us with phone anxiety stumble while talking on a call or fear that we will. You might feel like your mind goes blank when you pick up a call or when the person on the other side answers a call you make. 

If that sounds familiar, write down what you need to say on a piece of paper and set it in front of you next time you need to make a call. You can write down exact phrasing or key points. 

2. Ask someone to be your body double.

If you have a fear of making necessary phone calls, having someone with you might help. Let’s say you need to make a doctor’s appointment, and it’s long overdue because of phone phobia. Elect a friend, partner, or loved one to sit with you while you call. 

3. Schedule calls in advance.

Sometimes, anticipation makes things worse. In other cases, scheduling calls in advance can help. Write a to-do list or set an intention to make the call you’re avoiding at a specific time. For example, 10 am on Wednesday. 

4. Tell the caller how long you have to talk.

How many of us are more afraid of getting stuck on a lengthy call than we are answering the phone itself? For a lot of people, this is where ignoring calls stems from. If you ignore calls because you don’t want to talk for a long time, tell the caller how long you have to talk upfront (e.g., “I have 20 minutes.”) 

Some people make calls at specific times of the day for this reason. For example, you might call your parents before work. That way, you have a set time that you need to get off the phone. 

5. Address performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety is a frequently cited cause of phone phobia. If you fear you’ll say the wrong thing on the phone or have an awkward encounter during a call, this could be the case for you. 

A comforting fact about phone calls is that they’re rarely permanent. Far less permanent than social media. You may stumble, but all of us do. Even at work, laughing off a mistake, correcting it, and moving on is perfectly acceptable. 

Use positive self-talk to address the performance anxiety that comes with phone calls. Before a call, coach yourself through it; “a lot of people have phone anxiety; I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to communicate enough to meet my goal.” 

For example, if your goal is to make a doctor’s appointment, it doesn’t matter if you stumble or misspeak. It just matters that you make the appointment.

Final thoughts…

Phone phobia is common, affecting almost half of Gen Z. Even if you don’t necessarily experience phone phobia, you might dread, put off, or avoid phone calls. Still, if ignoring phone calls gets out of hand, it can come with consequences. This is true regardless of the cause. 

Missed social opportunities and the inability to make medical appointments are two examples of how phone phobia can interfere with your life or functioning. That said, there are tips you can use to get past it, like writing a script or preparing yourself with boundary-setting techniques.

If you need a place to talk about nervousness, stress, or anything else that’s on your mind, chat online with Supportiv today. No talking is required; type your thoughts, and we’ll match you with a real person immediately. Supportiv available 24/7/365. 

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