A telephone phobia is an irrational fear of using the telephone and is typically a form of social anxiety disorder or social phobia. Individuals who develop a telephone phobia become extremely anxious when required to use a phone. This anxiety may cause physiological symptoms, such as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. The individual may also freeze when having to speak to someone on the phone and may develop a stutter or stammer when attempting telephone communication. Telephone phobia can manifest itself even in people who regularly use the phone in their line of work, which may severely affect their ability to keep their jobs or progress in their careers.
While many people feel uncomfortable calling people that they do not know or calling someone to deliver unpleasant news, a telephone phobia creates debilitating symptoms for an individual. These symptoms may make it difficult or even impossible for him or her to use the telephone appropriately. In fact, an individual suffering from a telephone phobia may find it difficult to use the phone even when a failure to do so could have serious consequences, such as job loss or damage to interpersonal relationships.
When evaluating someone for a telephone phobia, a medical or mental health practitioner will typically consider a variety of factors while making a diagnosis. For example, the patient's vital signs may be measured in a circumstance where he or she is being asked to use a telephone. The patient may also be asked to describe if he or she experiences nausea or dizziness when confronted with a ringing phone or the need to make a call. He or she may also be evaluated for other symptoms of social anxiety disorder as well as other mental health issues.
Like many other phobias, a telephone phobia can often be treated through psychotherapy, self-help techniques, and, in more extreme cases, the use of medications. Specialists in treating phobias may use cognitive behavioral therapy to help sufferers to better understand their thought processes and to make changes in the way they think about using the phone and interacting with other people. Other therapies include exposure therapy, in which someone with a fear of using the telephone may be asked to attempt to use the phone in different ways, beginning with making unthreatening calls to voice mail systems and gradually working up to more complex telephone interactions. Additional treatments may include participation in self-help groups for those with social phobias as well as receiving training in social skills that can increase an individual's confidence and thus reduce his or her anxiety.