Fear of the phone

I've been suffering with anxiety since I was in my 20s - I'm in my 40s presently.  So - half my life I've been suffering with panic attacks and social anxiety disorder.  Unfortunately I didn't even begin to get treatment till around 8 years ago and things have gotten better. 
Lately, however, I am terrified of answering my phone if I don't know who it is.  I'm not sure why this is happening now, as there is no one out there in the world who should be scaring me.  But if I see a number I don't know I just don't answer, and I won't even listen to the message.  
The only thing I can think of is that I recently moved 3000 miles away from my elderly parents -- my dad is always in and out of the hospital.  It's possible I'm internalizing my fear of his bad health, and might be afraid the unknown call is that he's sick ... or worse.  I don't know.  But the point is, it's getting so bad that I turn off my ringer, I leave my phone at home when I go out ... I do everything to avoid seeing who called.  And I never, never check my messages leading to a lot of friends writing me emails either saying they're made at me for never calling them back, or scared that something happened to me (and all that creates even more anxiety for me).

Any advice?
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  • Well, look at it this way, if you get a phone call about his bad health, wouldn't it be better to have the time and hindsight to be able to go see him, knowing it might be the last time?

    I think you can't just shake this off on your own, and you could use some sort of therapy to help you firstly figure out where this is coming from, and secondly, how to stop it. 
    Lots of people seem to have this issue, though, our plumber forgets us for weeks at a time, because he is scared to answer or call us. He told us that once. I went out with someone for 6 years one and he never once answered the phone to me. It was text only. said he would get panicky from the very ringtone.
    I think it's a common enough problem, but one that could cripple you eventually, or lead to other social phobias.
  • I also suffer from phone anxiety and for me is really hard to answer the phone when I don't know who's calling. I end up not picking up job interviews for example, because I can't talk with people- talking with them personally isn't much of a struggle though. I don't know but I feel I loose my voice and I start shaking right away when the phone rings but so far I don't have any plausible cause to why I'm like this.
  • I have similar issues. I have the fear of receiving bad news and it makes me afraid to answer my phone. This might seem a bit odd, but the way I cope with it is by being a pessimist/realist. In any situation I expect the worst outcome and I assume the worst outcome. It helps with my anxiety because if I already assume its something bad then it won't be that hard of a pill to swallow if it is. If it's something good then you can feel way better about the situation. This is how I help myself on a daily basis and it seems to work good for me.
  • Thank you so much, everyone, it's really helpful to hear that I'm not the only one feeling this way.  @belovedad - I think you make a good point.  It's a bit of a trick, one that I'd have to work on a little.  I know everyone has their own little tricks  - the thing is coming up with one that works enough so that the anxiety doesn't overwhelm you.  
  • I actually hate, hate, hate answering the phone - it makes me anxious too, I always prefer to text because that way I have time to consider my response, you know? I think it's that part of it that makes me nervous. I'm not good at saying no, either - so if someone asks me if I have time to do something point blank on the phone, I'll usually say yes. So that's a big part of why I hate it too.
  • thank you for sharing....i can see that perhaps the underlying reason may have something to do with your dad....perhaps trying to focus on the present...mindfulness...enjoy right now...and even when the anxiety pops up, try to think the best....

    we are here for you!
  • That's because you are too much concerned about your dad's health. Try meditation, especially Buddhist Meditation, that helps you to realize life and death,pain and pleasure, are two faces of the same coin. 
  • I have this as well and I ink you are somewhat correct in your assessment that you might just be avoiding some situations, as I feel myself being the same way when I am feeling afraid of answering the phone as well. That one phone call I am dreading tends to spill over and affects all my other want of communication and soon I feel like I just want to ignore all calls altogether.
  • @Dort this is a situation where you have to face the fear. You know what it is and you clearly do not like the crippling effect it has on you. You're still in a state where your mind leads you and not YOU leading your mind. Make it a habit everyday to try to do something you a afraid of, no matter how small. As mentioned before, meditation can do wonders with the outlook of calming your mind and getting to a state that you want it to be at.
  • Hey, @Dort... I have the same fear of the phone. I rarely answer the landline at my house, even if it's someone I know. And I don't even own a cell phone. I prefer communicating via email. It's much easier for me.

    So, just know that you're not alone.
  • I feel the same way when my phone rings. Have you tried getting a cell phone and putting your landline to message? I would get this way when I was scared of collectors calling me. My therapist told me to imagine, "What is the worst that can happen?" When you do that, then your fears lessen.
  • @sillylucy - you bring up a good point about collectors.  I was going through a rough patch (after years of being very good) and suddenly was getting calls from collectors.  I'd never had to deal with that before and it brought up all sorts of negative associations: that I'd failed as a person, that the collectors would think badly of me (even though they're really just doing a job and talk to people like me all day long - I mean nothing to them personally).  In any case, those calls started terrifying me.  Now I'm back on track financially but I think you've hit on something - if I look back, that's when this all started ... in addition to my dad getting older and sicker --- which may be what's making this fear stick around.  
    As far as landline/cellphone - I don't have a landline!  I moved and when I did I got rid of it.  I just hate the noise of a ringing phone - that's how much I hate it - to not even get one installed!
    Thanks again, everyone here - your words are helping me! 
  • I also have phone anxiety. I get mini panic attacks if the phone rings and do not know whose number it is. It sounds so stupid and nobody believes me when I tell them. So I have stopped. I try not to keep my phone with my at all times but it has become an essential thing to have. I sometimes even are afraid to answer it when I know it's someone I know. Especially if I haven't spoken to them in a while.
  • Hi there! I  just wanted to let you know that you are not alone, the same thing happens to me :(   But my  feat to the phone is not so big, but then again I don't have a landline, so no messages for me.  I do get anxious when I find out someone called, then I have to call back and I suck at small talk.  I dread it.   

    I do think  you are afraid to receive a call from your mom letting you know your dad is at the hospital again. I do think your fear stems from that.   Have you considered theraphy? 
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