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Telefonophobia (fear of telephones): causes, symptoms and therapy

Telefonophobia (fear of telephones): causes, symptoms and therapy

May 18, 2024

There is a lot of talk in our days about phone addiction (nomophobia) and how many people have become accustomed to its use in such a way that they are unable to live without them. Mobile phones accompany us everywhere, and with the technological advances and the appearance of smartphones, they are like having a small computer in our pocket. Even though these devices are addictive they are really useful.

But nevertheless, there are individuals who do not enjoy the benefits of having a mobile device and suffer what is known as telefonophobia , that is, irrational fear towards telephones, whether mobile or fixed. In this article we will discuss this phobic disorder and will delve into its causes, symptoms and consequences.

  • Related article: "Nomophobia: the growing addiction to the mobile phone"

The importance of phones in our lives

Telephones allow us to communicate with people who are far away from us. They are an indispensable tool for our daily life and for many jobs, so they are considered one of the most important inventions in the history of mankind. For many years it was thought that the creator of this device was Alexander Graham Bell, along with Elisha Gray, but in fact, he only patented it. The inventor of the phone was Antonio Meucci .

Since then, the phone evolved and gave way to mobile phones and later to smartphones (smart mobile phones), from which it is not only possible to talk, but also to connect to the internet, and therefore to social networks, to different "apps" and different websites where it is possible to make purchases, make transactions and many more functions.

It is clear that we can live without mobile phones, but no one doubts that they are really useful

Telefonophobia: what is it?

Not everyone enjoys the advantages of mobile phones, as some individuals suffer from a condition called telephonophobia, which is the irrational fear of telephones. These pathologies, according to the DSM (Statistical Manual of Diagnosis of Mental Disorders), belong to anxiety disorders.

Telephonophobia is a specific phobia, and therefore an irrational fear of certain objects or situations . Some specific phobic stimuli are spiders, injections or snakes.

Specific phobias are known as simple phobias; however, there are other types of phobic disorders that are considered complex: social phobia and agoraphobia.

  • You can know more about this type of phobias in our article: "Types of phobias: exploring the disorders of fear"

Phobias and their development through classical conditioning

Phobias are frequent phenomena, and many patients go to psychological therapy to treat them. Fear is a feeling we all experience, and it is relatively frequent to feel discomfort and fear for something. Now, in some cases, these fears are really irrational, so it is necessary to seek professional help.

Phobias develop due to a type of associative learning called classical conditioning , which occurs when a person experiences a traumatic event and associates the phobic stimuli with this event. Classical conditioning was first investigated by a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov, but John B. Watson was the first to perform experiments on humans.

  • We invite you to know how to improve this concept in our article: "Classical conditioning and its most important experiments"

Other causes of phobias

However, phobias can not only be learned by direct experience, but also by observation, is what is known as vicar conditioning, a type of learning is similar to modeling and imitation, but it is not the same. In our article "Vicar conditioning: how does this type of learning work?" We explain it to you in detail.

As you see, phobias are learned, although some theorists think that there is a genetic origin and that phobias are hereditary . Although this option is increasingly discarded, experts think that we are biologically predisposed to fear certain stimuli, because fear is an adaptive emotion that provokes the fight-flight response, which has been key in the survival of the human species. This would explain why fears do not respond well to logical arguments, because they are formed by primitive and non-cognitive associations.

Symptomatology phobic

Symptoms are common in all phobic disorders, since the only thing that varies is the stimulus that causes it . Being an anxiety disorder, this is its main symptom, together with fear and discomfort, which provokes an avoidance response, which has to do with the fight-flight response in situations of danger. The discomfort and anxiety are so great that the phobic wants to get out of the situation as soon as possible to reduce the symptoms.

These symptoms occur at three levels: cognitive, behavioral and physical. Cognitive symptoms include fear and anxiety in front of mobile phones, as well as anguish, confusion, lack of concentration, irrational thoughts, etc. The avoidance of any situation in which the person can visualize having a mobile phone nearby is their main behavioral symptom. Physical symptoms include: pulse acceleration, hyperventilation, stomach pain and nausea, choking sensation, dry mouth, etc.


Phobias are disorders that cause great discomfort but are treatable and with some success. In fact, research indicates that there is a high percentage of success when the patient goes to psychological therapy and is treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of therapy includes different techniques, and relaxation techniques and exposure to phobic stimulation, either through the imagination or live, are especially useful for overcoming phobias.

In fact, a technique widely used and encompassing the previous ones is the automatic desensitization, a technique developed by Joseph Wolpe in 1958, and which aims to expose the patient to the phobic stimulus gradually and at the same time teach coping skills (in particular , relaxation techniques).

  • Therefore, this technique consists of 4 phases, which you can find detailed in our article "What is systematic desensitization and how does it work?"

However, nowadays, other forms of therapy that have proved to be very useful for anxiety disorders in general are also used. They are cognitive therapy based on Mindfulness (MCBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In addition to psychological therapy, in extreme phobias, drugs can also be used, but always in combination with psychotherapy.

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