Sunday, January 25, 2004

Phone Phobia

Note, I wrote this in my paper journal on Jan 17 but entered it today.

Last night, Mo shared an "Oprah moment" she taped recently. Actually the Oprah segment she taped was about financial security, but she also taped a Dr. Phil show about a woman who has a phone phobia. Mo knows me pretty well, but some of you may be surprised to hear that I also have a phobia about calling people on the telephone.

The guest on Dr. Phil's show doesn't like answering the phone and talking to people. She gets her husband to answer the phone. She never returns calls to friends who call her and leave messages for her. She always worries that she will get bad news when she answers the phone. She rationalizes that if she doesn't talk to people on the phone, she won't jeopardize her relationships with those people. From outside her phobia, it is obvious that she jeopardizes her relationships MORE by NOT answering the phone or returning peoples calls.

MY phobia is using the phone to get information from strangers (and to a minor extent phoning acquaintances who are not expecting my call). I get very flustered, don't know what to say, miss important questions and get the details confused about details because I just want the call to be over. I often feel like I am stuttering too much and that the person on the other end of the phone thinks, "Who is this moron, anyway?"

My anxiousness is usually strongest just before picking up the phone. The mood of the person I am calling is totally unknown. I can't tell if I am interrupting them or catching them at a bad time. I feel like I don't know the proper protocol and feel incredibly stupid.

I have developed some coping mechanisms over the years to mentally prepare myself for calls that just have to be made. I am much better than I was. I often try to get Mo to make calls to the doctor, order pizza, make reservations and the link. If she catches on, sometimes she forces me to do it myself.

Facing the fear is hard. Not using the phone is also hard in the modern world. Each time I face this fear, it gets a little easier to do. I still don't like it. I still have to work up my courage and get as prepared as I can before picking up the phone. But I do it.

Do you have a fear that immobilizes you? Is there something you face every day that drives you to do irrational things?


Anonymous said...

I have the same problem! Calling up strangers makes me feel REAL anguish. And having recently started working as a journalist, i have to call people up all the time, and it's almost always a disaster. I plan to take up potato farming now. Anyway, your blog made me feel a whole lot better about my problem, so thanks!

Tim R said...

Many, many people have visited my site searching for the keywords 'phone phobia'. It is the number one thing that brings people here. I am glad to have helped you. If you have a problem with this, give me a call. I promise I will answer and it will be good practise for you.

Or, if it is easier, just leave a comment instead :-)