Almost from the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been obvious to me that some combination of stress, uncertainty, fear and anger (choose one of them, or all) in reaction to the public health emergency has acted as a truth serum.
What you were before, you remain — but more so, enhanced, and in many cases, more obnoxious than ever before. If you were incapable of rational thought in February … well, you know. Logic probably hasn’t taken root since then.
I’m not backing away from this assessment.
However, it is equally obvious to me that it might be helpful to consider all this a bit more charitably, seeing as there’s the genuine possibility of otherwise functional folks just plain freaking out amid these conditions. After all, the mental health professionals have been talking about it since the pandemic began.
Because, speaking personally, it appears that my lifelong phobia about using the telephone has gotten worse during COVID-19. It’s embarrassing, but yes, I have a phone phobia, and it has been with me for a very long time.
How to Know If You Have a Phone Phobia, by Arlin Cuncic (Verywell)
Phone anxiety is a common fear among those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Many people may not like talking on the phone, or may even have a “phone fear.” But when your hesitance to make and receive calls causes you to experience symptoms such as severe anxiety, shortness of breath, or a racing heart, you may actually have phone phobia.
Those who do not have SAD may be afraid to use the phone. They may be more comfortable in direct social interactions, perhaps due to the fact that face-to-face settings allow them to be able to read non-verbal cues, like facial expressions.
However, those with SAD obviously suffer from the opposite. If you are dealing with this condition, a phone fear may reflect issues you are dealing with regarding interaction with others in general.
If you feel extreme anxiety before or after interacting over the phone, you may indeed have a phobia. Some emotional symptoms of phone anxiety may include:
- Avoid making calls or having others call you
- Delay in making or answering phone calls
- Obsess about what was said after calls
- Stress about embarrassing yourself
- Worry about bothering the other person
- Worry about what you will say
Physical symptoms of phone anxiety may include:
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble concentrating
The fear of making and receiving phone calls can be disruptive to both your personal and professional lives. It is important to take phone anxiety seriously. Although answering the phone and making calls may seem like a simple task that everyone should be able to do, if you suffer from phone phobia, the anxiety can be terrifying and real.
Five of the six emotional symptoms and three of four physical symptoms apply to me, not every time I’m compelled to use the phone, but primarily when I must call a stranger or someone I don’t know altogether well. I can answer the phone just fine. I can call a restaurant and ask for business hours. But I can’t just dial up someone with whom I’m not already acquainted.
That’s why the digital era has been so good for me. Texts, messaging and e-mail have enabled me to avoid the phone, or at the very least, to make contact before calling. This helps considerably. I prefer writing, anyway, because I trust my ability to get it right with the written word.
Like an illiterate person who concocts dozens of work-arounds to cope with being unable to read, I’ve devised all sorts of ways to avoid a “cold” phone call.
Usually one of these works. Last week the exception to the rule arrived in the form of a person who doesn’t use other modern forms of communication. Maybe he has a phobia about THEM. I had to call him, and I failed to call. Still haven’t. Can’t bring myself to do it.
This great revelation was confided to my wife the social worker, who merely shrugged and replied with deadly accuracy, “do you think”? She believes my phone phobia is a legacy of the speech impediment (and accompanying self-loathing) that I brought with me to grade school, where I had to leave class regularly for speech therapy.
The therapy was effective, although it took a lot longer to learn how to deal with debilitating shyness, and finally, thanks mostly to bartending, I was able to contain it and find my voice when I’m around people in a social setting.
However, the phone obstacle remained. Trust me, I’ve spent hundreds of hours more staring at a phone than speaking into one.
What’s next? Dunno. I suppose the rote, expected answer is that I’ll gladly seek expert advice and put in the hard work necessary to conquer this issue.
Except that in general, it’s not much of an impediment at all. I can go months successfully avoiding the issue. If all of you would just use e-mail, we’d be good.
Just have your people call my people. Otherwise, you might not hear from me at all.