Telophobia (fear of phones): causes, symptoms and therapy

There’s a lot of talk these days about phone addiction (nomophobia) and how many people have gotten used to using it so they can’t do without it. Cell phones are everywhere with us, and with advancements in technology and the advent of smartphones, it’s like having a small computer in our pocket. Although these devices are addictive, they are really useful.

however, there are people who do not enjoy the benefits of a mobile device and suffer from what is called telophobiaThat is to say an irrational fear of mobile or landline phones. In this article, we will talk about this phobic disorder and delve deeper into its causes, symptoms and consequences.

    The importance of phones in our lives

    Phones allow us to communicate with people who are far from us. They are an indispensable tool for our daily life and for many jobs, which makes them 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 reality he only patented it. The inventor of the telephone was Antonio Meucci.

    Since then, the telephone has evolved and given way to mobile phones and later to smartphones (smart mobile phones), from which it is not only possible to speak, but also to connect to the internet, and therefore to social networks, to different “apps” and different web pages where you can make purchases, make transactions and many other functions.

    Of course, we can live without cellphones, but no one doubts that they are really useful

    Telophobia: what is it?

    Not everyone enjoys the benefits of cell phones, as some people suffer from a condition called telophobia, which is the irrational fear of phones. These pathologies, according to the DSM (Statistical Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders), belong to anxiety disorders.

    Telophobia 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 called simple phobias; however, there are other types of phobic disorders considered complex: social phobia and agoraphobia.

    • You can read more about this type of phobia in our article: “Types of Phobias: Exploring Fear Disorders”

    Phobias and their development by classical conditioning

    Phobias are common phenomena and many patients undergo psychological therapy to treat them. Fear is a feeling we all have, and it’s relatively common to feel discomfort and fear about something. However, in some cases these fears are truly irrational, so you need 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 phobic stimuli with that event. Classical conditioning was first studied by a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov, but the first to perform experiments on humans was John B. Watson.

    • We invite you to learn more about this concept in our article: “Classic conditioning and its most important experiences”

    Other causes of phobias

    However, phobias can not only learn by direct experience, but also by observation, this is called vicarious conditioning, a type of learning that looks like modeling and imitation, but it is not. not the same thing. In our article “Vicarious conditioning: how does this type of learning work?” we tell you in detail.

    As you can see, phobias are learned, however some theorists believe that there is a genetic origin and that phobias are hereditary. Although this option is increasingly ruled out, experts believe that we are biologically predisposed to fear certain stimuli because fear is an adaptive emotion that elicits the fight-flight response, which has been key to the survival of the human being. human race. This would explain why fears do not respond well to logical arguments, as they are formed by primitive associations and not cognitive.

    phobic symptomatology

    The symptomatology is common to all phobic disorders, because the only thing that varies is the stimulus that causes it.. When it comes to an anxiety disorder, it is its main symptom, coupled with fear and discomfort, that elicits an avoidance response, which has to do with the fight-flight response to dangerous situations. 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 about cell phones, as well as anxiety, confusion, lack of concentration, irrational thoughts, etc. Avoiding any situation in which the person can imagine having a cell phone nearby is their primary behavioral symptom. Physical symptoms include: rapid pulse, hyperventilation, stomach pain and nausea, shortness of breath, 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 success rate when the patient goes through psychological therapy and is treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of therapy involves different techniques, and relaxation techniques and exposure to a phobic stimulus, whether through the imagination or live, are particularly useful in overcoming phobias.

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

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

    However, at present, other forms of therapy are also in use which have proven to be very useful for anxiety disorders in general. These are Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). In addition to psychological therapy, in extreme phobias drugs can also be used, but always in conjunction with psychotherapy.

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