Your phone is ringing, you feel your stomach drop to your feet. Anxiety shoots through your body, you hurry to silence the ringer. Whew! Crisis averted. This is what phone anxiety with ADHD can feel like.
Do you find yourself avoiding important phone calls because you dread phone calls? You’re not alone. Believe it or not, phone anxiety and ADHD are linked. Many people with ADHD deal with phone anxiety.
What is phone anxiety?
Phone anxiety (also known as telephobia) is when one avoids conversations on the phone. Many people don’t like talking on the phone. However, this is not the same as having anxiety when your phone rings.
Phone anxiety is a legitimate anxiety disorder. In fact, it is recognized as part of social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder, in short, is the overwhelming fear and extreme self-consciousness in day-to-day social interactions.
This can look like:
- Being afraid or feeling anxious when speaking to people in formal or informal situations.
- Fear of eating or drinking in front of others.
- Feeling anxious when talking on the phone or receiving phone calls.
- Feeling anxious around people in general.
- Worrying about looking as anxious as you feel.
- Being afraid of coming off as “stupid” or “awkward” in front of others.
- Increased heart rate in social situations.
- Feeling nauseous in social situations.
- Avoiding social interactions and situations.
If you deal with social anxiety, don’t worry, 15 million Americans are affected by social anxiety. In addition to that, there are ways to make talking on the phone work for you! We will get that later.
How is phone anxiety linked to ADHD?
Many people with ADHD have comorbid condition(s). What does this mean? Basically, someone with ADHD can experience both ADHD and another condition. ADHDers are more likely to experience:
- Bipolar disorder
- Learning disorders
- Depressive disorders
- Anxiety disorders
About 60%–100% of children with ADHD will also have one or more comorbid disorders that often stay with them as adults. 50% of people with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder.
This is possibly because the ADHD mind moves incredibly fast. As an ADHDer, your brain naturally processes thoughts very quickly. Furthermore, your brain can also have difficulty filtering out stimuli from your environment.
In other words, your mind is moving very fast and you’re extremely aware of almost everything around you.
This is why ADHDers can have difficulty focusing. This overstimulation also causes anxiety about everyday social situations, such as talking on the phone.
Why do many people with ADHD hate talking on the phone?
1. You have a hard time staying engaged on the phone.
Facial expressions, gestures, and even the other person’s energy play a major role in how we communicate with each other.
Without visual cues, it can be difficult for ADHDers to properly interpret what they are hearing on the other line. For instance, an ADHDer may interpret a pause or break in the conversation as someone not understanding what they said because they were talking too fast. This can make phone anxiety worse.
2. You’re afraid of what the other person may say.
People with ADHD can experience hypersensitivity. This means that they are very sensitive to their environment, their emotions and the people around them. In addition, they can experience emotional dysregulation.
What does this have to do with phone anxiety? ADHDers may be anxious or scared of what the person on the other end of the phone may say or how they say it. Emotional sensitivity can amplify these feelings to the point where they may avoid the phone call altogether.
3. You feel trapped on the phone.
Visual communication cues are important for anyone to communicate, but they are extremely important for many people with ADHD. The lack of visual cues can make it easy for the ADHD mind to wonder.
It can be hard to focus on what you can’t see. Someone with ADHD can easily get distracted or bored when there are no visual stimuli.
4. Talking makes you anxious.
This goes with the social anxiety aspect of ADHD. Talking to people can induce extreme anxiety and for those with ADHD, there can be many reasons for this. For example, many people with ADHD tend to talk really fast. This can lead to people not understanding what they are saying.
Some people with ADHD can be misunderstood often. They may often feel so many feelings and experience so many thoughts at once it can be difficult to articulate what they are thinking and feeling.
This can result in ADHDers being anxious to talk in general, especially on the phone with no visual cues.
5. Time blindness
Have you ever been on a phone call and wondered “when will this end?” This is how ADHDers may believe the person on the other end of the phone feels about their phone call.
People with ADHD experience what is called time blindness.
This is exactly what it sounds like, it is difficult to perceive the passage of time. They may feel that they have talked too much for too long. Or it could be the opposite effect for the ADHDer.
The phone call may feel like an eternity but in reality, it has only been a few minutes.
6. It’s been a long time since they missed your call.
Imagine missing a close friend’s phone call several times, or a close family member. How would this make you feel? You may feel as if you are missing the mark as far as your relationship with this person is concerned.
This is how many people with ADHD feel when they avoid the phone calls of the people they love. All of the above-mentioned reasons can lead to someone with ADHD avoiding phone calls altogether.
At this point, they may feel that you do not want to hear from them. This is the same 4 important ‘adulting’ phone calls like paying an important bill.
How can I overcome my phone anxiety as someone with ADHD?
As we all know, phone calls are an extremely important part of Modern Life, whether we are connecting with loved ones or completing important executive tasks. If you have ADHD and you’re dealing with phone anxiety, you may feel tremendous guilt or feel like you are falling short.
Don’t worry, there are ways to help deal with phone anxiety.
1. Don’t avoid phone calls.
This one may be tough, however, psychologists recommend not avoiding what makes you anxious. This is because avoiding what makes you anxious will make you even more anxious. Furthermore, over time, people may feel like you’re avoiding them.
You can relax yourself by doing breathing exercises (or whatever helps you relax) before a call to help you feel less anxious. Over time you will feel more confident talking on the phone.
2. Be open with family and friends about your phone anxiety.
Talking to your family and friends about your anxiety may feel weird at first, especially since many people with ADHD tend to mask or hide their symptoms from others. However, you may be surprised at how understanding those closest to you may be.
Friends and family can be willing to accommodate your communication needs. For example, a friend may text rather than call you because they know you would rather not make a phone call.
3. Don’t beat yourself up about having phone anxiety.
Neurodivergent or neurotypical, everyone misses the mark sometimes. It may sound cliche, but that’s part of what makes us human. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling like you are falling short, you can always find hacks to improve your phone anxiety.
4. Pair phone calls with another stimulating activity.
If you find that your attention wanders or your anxiety is through the roof during phone calls, you can pair phone calls with another stimulating activity. This can be as simple as:
- using a fidget toy during phone calls
- going on a walk
- chewing gum
These activities will help divert attention away from anxious thoughts. In addition, when the phone rings in the future, your brain will associate phone calls with these activities.
5. Try a video call.
A video call may work better than a regular call. The visual cues can help improve focus and reduce anxiety.
The Bottom Line on Phone Anxiety and ADHD
In conclusion, phone anxiety is very real for many people with ADHD. It can make ADHDers feel awful and anxious when it comes to simply answering the phone. However, there are ways to make phone calls easier.
More ADHD & Neurodiversity Resources in The Ability Toolbox
- ADHD Merch: T-Shirts, Pins & Stickers for Proud Neurodivergents
- So You’ve Just Received an Adult ADHD Diagnosis. Now What?
- 15 Sensory Toys for Adults With Autism, ADHD, and Anxiety
- Beautiful Stim & Fidget Jewelry for Adults with Anxiety, Autism, & ADHD
- Cuddly Weighted Stuffed Animals for Kids and Adults to Hug
Photo by Muhammad-taha Ibrahim on Pexels
I am a health and wellness writer. I specialize in many health and wellness topics from fitness to mental health. As someone with ADHD I know the challenges that come when your brain works a bit differently. Join me as I uncover ADHD topics and provide tips on how to work with your brain rather than against it. When I'm not writing you can find me working out or avoiding sugar cravings.