Dealing with Phone Anxiety

Experiencing anxiety when receiving a call from someone you fear is a typical stress response and can be attributed to several factors. Anxiety is a natural reaction that prepares our body and mind to deal with perceived threats or danger. In the context of a phone call from someone you fear, the anxiety response may be triggered by various factors:


Anticipation of adverse outcomes: If you have had negative experiences or interactions with this person in the past, your mind may associate their call with potential conflict, criticism, or unpleasantness. This anticipation of adverse outcomes can evoke anxiety as your body prepares to cope with a perceived threat.


Fear of judgment or rejection: If you fear being judged, criticized, or rejected by the person calling, you may experience anxiety (Doctor, Kahn, & Adamec, 2008). The call may trigger worries about not meeting their expectations, facing confrontation, or being uncomfortable. 


Uncertainty and loss of control: Phone conversations often involve spontaneous exchanges where you may have less control over the situation than face-to-face interactions. The lack of visual cues and immediate responses can lead to heightened anxiety as you may feel uncertain about how to respond or navigate the conversation effectively.


Past traumatic experiences: Anxiety can also arise if the person calling reminds you of a traumatic event or has caused significant emotional distress. The mere thought of interacting with them, even over the phone, can trigger a fear response due to the association with the previous trauma.


According to a 2019 survey of UK office workers, 76% of millennials and 40% of baby boomers have anxious thoughts when their phone rings. Because of this, 61% of millennials would altogether avoid calls, compared with 42% of baby boomers (Sebah, 2021).

Strategies to deal with phone anxiety


Managing anxiety in such situations can be challenging, but some strategies can help:


Self-awareness: Recognize and acknowledge your anxiety instead of trying to suppress or ignore it. Accept that it is a natural response, and be compassionate towards yourself.


Breathing exercises and relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness techniques can help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote a sense of calmness. Try breathing (count to 4), holding your breath for a few seconds (7 seconds or so), and then releasing the breath (count to 6). 


Cognitive reframing: Challenge negative thoughts or assumptions about the upcoming call. Consider alternative perspectives or possible positive outcomes to counterbalance your fears.


Preparation and planning: If you anticipate the call will involve challenging topics or discussions, prepare yourself in advance. Jot down important points, gather necessary information, and think about expressing yourself effectively during the conversation. Remember, if you are dealing with someone narcissistic, using the gray rock method can be advantageous (not adding emotions to your responses). 


Text messaging: By eliminating the immediate reaction of the other person, text messaging may offer a way of interacting without the fear.


Seek support: Contact a trusted person who can provide emotional support and guidance. Sharing your concerns with someone can help alleviate anxiety.


Professional help: If anxiety becomes a persistent issue and significantly interferes with your daily life, consider seeking professional help from a mental health professional. They can provide specific strategies tailored to your situation and help you address underlying issues.


Remember, everyone's experience with anxiety is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Finding coping mechanisms that resonate with you and seeking help if needed is essential.




Dr., R. M., Kahn, A. P., & Adamec, C. A. (2008). The encyclopedia of phobias, fears, and anxieties. New York, NY: Facts On File. 


Sebah, I. (2021). Retrieved from 

Free Guide:

Learn about the importance of having clear boundaries. Build up your self-esteem, identify your needs, practice self-care, detach from others' drama, or go no contact. 


The Power of Personal Boundaries is an easy-to-read guide with prompts to guide you through setting boundaries. Do an inventory: set boundaries and take your power back: