Texting anxiety refers to the fear of sending or receiving text messages. A person may experience this for a number of reasons, and it may stem from social anxiety, bullying, or lack of face-to-face contact. Texting anxiety may result in symptoms of panic, insecurity, or stress, with some choosing to ignore incoming messages entirely.
What Is Texting Anxiety?
Texting anxiety is a common type of anxiety disorder that relates to communication via text messages. While it is not a diagnosable condition, texting anxiety may affect as many as one out of five people.1 However, that does not mean that it looks the same for everyone. Some individuals may become anxious over what was said in a text they received, while others hyperfixate on what to say when sending one.1
Signs of Texting Anxiety
In order to address texting anxiety, it’s important to identify the signs of it. Several symptoms of anxiety manifest for those who experience texting anxiety, such as an overwhelming worry, panic, or racing heartbeat. These can result in a person completely avoiding their phone, texting others back, or texting in general.
Signs of texting anxiety may include:
- You never text first: Someone may choose to never text others first because they don’t know what to say, or they fear what the other person’s response would be.
- You avoid your phone after sending a text: A person may become so anxious about sending a text, that they choose instead to ignore the response once it comes in.
- You turn off notifications for texts: An individual may feel overwhelmed when texts start coming in, so they turn off notifications.
- You avoid group text messages: A sign of texting anxiety can be avoiding group chats, even if a person is in one already.
- You delete messages: Some types of texts can make a person particularly anxious, especially if it involves conflict or deep conversations. They may not want to be able to revisit these texts later on.
- You use emojis in most or all of your messages: Someone may be afraid of how others will react to their texts, so they use emojis to keep conversations light-hearted.
- You continuously check your phone: A person may continuously check their phone after sending or waiting for a text message.
What Causes Texting Anxiety?
While there are many common anxiety triggers one may experience, what makes someone anxious about texting can vary from person to person. Many times, texting anxiety stems from frustration, fear, and worry over the reactions of other people. This often affects teenagers and young adults who struggle with social anxiety or communication. Knowing the causes behind one’s texting anxiety can help one identify better ways to manage it.2
Possible causes of texting anxiety include:
- Social anxiety disorder: For a person with social anxiety disorder, a common fear is that they are being negatively perceived by others. This can result in them hyperfixating on how to respond in a text thread.
- Lack of face-to-face contact: Not being able to read a person’s body language or facial expressions when communicating can make interpreting a text challenging. Because of this, someone with texting anxiety may be worried about how their messages are being interpreted.
- Peer pressure: A person dealing with peer pressure may feel that they have to respond or react to texts in a certain way. If they do not know what is expected of them, they may become anxious about not meeting their friends’ expectations.
- Perfectionistic tendencies: A perfectionist may feel obligated to respond to texts rapidly, accurately, and pleasingly.
- Bullying: For someone who is being bullied or cyberbullied, they may fear that any incoming texts are from their bully.
10 Tips for Dealing With Texting Anxiety
Dealing with texting anxiety is challenging, but there are some healthy coping skills you can adopt to help ease your worries. Limit the amount of time you spend on your phone, and learn how to recognize and prepare for triggering situations. Learning how to calm your anxiety is the first step toward reducing your symptoms.3
Below are 10 tips for dealing with texting anxiety:
1. Avoid Serious Conversations Over Text
Having a serious conversation over text can be difficult for a multitude of reasons, and not being able to hear a person’s tone of voice is just one. Miscommunication via text can worsen any conflict and friction between family and friends. Therefore, it is best to deal with conflict in a relationship in person, rather than through back-and-forth messages. Doing so will help relieve some of the anxiety you feel.
2. Don’t Project Your Insecurities
Someone with texting anxiety may be projecting their insecurities on the recipient of their text. For instance, they may accuse the other person of using a negative tone, because they’re scared of doing this themselves. Take a step back and inward before assuming anything.
3. Ask for Clarification
If you are nervous over a text message you or someone else has sent, ask for clarification. A lack of communication impacts relationships monumentally, especially when you make automatic assumptions based on little evidence. Asking for clarification also shows the other person that you want to avoid any misinterpretations. This will help reduce the potential of unnecessary arguments, as well as your anxiety.
4. Let Your Friends Know How You Feel
Let your friends know how you feel about texting. By giving them a heads up, you offer them a chance to better understand if you respond anxiously or accusatory to a message. For those who are introverted or socially awkward, sharing this information can be tough. However, it helps keep communication open and honest while limiting the risk of frustration.
5. Practice Grounding Techniques
Using grounding techniques–not just in the heat of your anxiety, but throughout the day–is an important coping skill to develop. Practicing this encourages you to stay present in the moment, rather than focusing on what you can’t control.
6. Put the Phone Away
If you’re spending time with others, put your phone away. At first, this may make you feel even more anxious, especially if you’re waiting for an important text to arrive. However, focusing on who you’re with and the present moment is important, and can teach you to combat your triggers. You may even notice that you forget about your concerns about the text entirely!
7. Limit Screen Time
Take time away from your screen. This does not mean necessarily putting your phone away. Limiting time on the screen can be taking inventory of how often you use your cell phone for social media. When this happens, we also tend to become anxious waiting for text messages from other people. Taking the time to limit your screen time allows you to have decreased anxiety of waiting to hear from others.
8. Find the Focus of a Text
If a text thread contains multiple different topics at once, try focusing on only one at a time. Once you’ve read and responded to that particular aspect, you can then move on to the next. Doing so can help you feel more secure in your responses.
9. Phone a Friend
When texting proves too overwhelming for you, ask the other person if a phone call works for them instead. You’ll be better able to hear their reactions and share your thoughts effectively without miscommunications. Even if this is something that needs to be scheduled, interacting over the phone rather than through texts can greatly ease your anxiety.
10. Use the Notes App
Afraid of what you are saying? Prepare your text before sending it. Write out your message in the notes app on your phone and read it over until you are comfortable with how it sounds. This will help you feel less overwhelmed when you really press the “send” button.
When to Seek Professional Help
While having coping skills is an important aspect of dealing with anxiety, knowing when to seek professional guidance is also essential. When your texting anxiety begins to greatly impact your life and ability to communicate, it may be time to try therapy. There are many options for anxiety therapy available, so finding the right therapist ensures that you receive the support best suited for you and your individual needs.
In My Experience
In my experience, it is helpful to recognize your triggers first before determining the best ways to cope with anxiety. Doing so serves as a starting point, but seeking professional help can further aid in your management of texting anxiety. Addressing the signs early on will produce the best results and improve your quality of life.