Anxiety. That little monster, it gets into everything. Every time a new form of communication is introduced to us, the anxiety monster spawns more ways of controlling us. It must have been so happy when computers and smartphones became part of our lives.
With almost everybody's smartphone attached to their palms these days, it's no wonder that we would start to have psychological effects as a society. Anxiety from digital communication is on the rise and might even be an epidemic.
There is hope. In this article, we're going to cover a few tips on how to overcome texting anxiety.
What is Texting Anxiety?
Texting anxiety can be broken down into three basic categories:
- Textiety is a heightened sense of anxiety when you are waiting for a text or response or when you feel pressured to respond to a text right away.
- Textaphrenia is the feeling that you've received a message or a notification and having the urge to constantly check your phone.
- Binge Texting is when somebody, particularly teens, sends a barrage of messages to different people in reaction to the anxiety of not feeling connected.
We are going to concentrate on the first two in this article as they are the most common.
These disorders are a side effect of cell phone addiction. A comprehensive study of this widespread phenomenon and the resulting psychological conditions that are derived from it was published in Front Psychiatry, a psychiatric research periodical.
From this, it's not hard to see how the advent of smartphones has the conditions that feed texting anxiety. Anybody that’s prone to anxiety, particularly when dealing with relationships and communication, can find plenty to be anxious about with communication technology.
The Anxiety of Responding to a Text
This is the worst and most insidious part of texting anxiety.
Because the anxiety that causes us to delay a response also causes anxiety in the person we’re responding to.
They aren't thinking about the fact that you aren't responding because you’re inundated with messages and notifications all day. They don’t know that you’re feeling too overwhelmed to answer. They’re projecting their own fears and insecurities onto you.
They’re thinking that you’re rejecting them and this makes them fret about the fact that you must be rejecting them. It's the texting anxiety dance.
The longer you go without responding to a text because of your anxiety, the worse their anxiety gets from not receiving your response. So much anxiety!
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Fear of Rejection
From sending anything confrontational or serious to expressing intimate desires or declarations of love, feeling paralyzed when waiting for a response affects so many of us. Now add the predisposition to be anxious or depressed onto that and you have yourself extreme anxiety.
People fear things like airing out grievances or asking for a favor in person for good reason. Those are hard conversations to have.
Thinking that sending those things through a text message instead of a phone call or a face-to-face meeting seems to make sense. The problem is that people forget to take into account how hard waiting for an answer is.
I, myself, am a babbler in person, that's one of the reasons I like writing. I can edit and cut down my instinct to babble. I can be whoever I want to be! So, my instinct to use text as a communication device would only make sense, right? Oh, so wrong. So very wrong, my friends.
My anxiety creates so many possibilities as I wait for an answer or agonize over my wording. I always think that I’m bothering the person I’m texting or annoying them. And the waiting for a response tears up my insides.
Waiting for an answer to your perfectly constructed text gives your anxiety time to increase exponentially. Oh, how I know this so well. People actually have panic attacks while they wait because the anxiety just builds on itself.
This is a problem because most of us know by now that anxiety and stress actually have physical implications. We need to do what we can to ease that anxious feeling and eliminate as much stress as we can.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help counter texting anxiety.
What You Can Do to Overcome Texting Anxiety
Overthinking is a classic characteristic of most anxiety disorders. Texting anxiety can be credited mostly to over thinking habits. It’s a real problem that affects your communication abilities.
Like anything with anxiety, it becomes a vicious cycle. But it doesn't have to be if you consider the following texting habits.
Set It and Forget It
If you’re going to text something that is serious, deep or some sort of confession, make sure to say that there is no pressure for them to respond right away. If your situation doesn't call for an urgent response, tell them point-blank that they can take time to think about it and you understand if they need a day or two.
This helps alleviate texting anxiety by letting them know they can take some time. When you do this, your brain processes the fact that you shouldn’t expect a quick response. It's a mental trick for that works a lot of the time. Try it, it's kind of amazing.
Use Exclamation Points & Emojis!
Knowing that you’ve done everything you can to show the subtext of your intention can go a long way in relieving anxious feelings about being misinterpreted while you wait for a response.
No text is ever going to be perfect and you can't know for a fact that the recipient will interpret your meaning correctly but you can try!
Using periods is out for most anything in text these days. Somehow, some way, people started to interpret periods as lacking emotion, compassion and any form of empathy at all.
We'll get into what you can do about that way of thinking later, but to combat others thinking your text is sociopathic, use exclamation points!
Even grammar specialists are falling in line with this. They resisted for a while as the exclamation point used to only be reserved for earnestness, excitement or exclamation. Now, it is being used to show you're not mad or a monster!
Combining the exclamation point with an emoji is the clincher you need to make your recipient realize that you come in peace.
Keep in mind that if somebody sends back a mundane text or doesn't make an effort to put any personality into their texts (!), it doesn't mean that their intent is to be dismissive or emotionless. A lot of people are just busy or have no idea that they are coming off a certain way.
Think about it. Many of you didn't even realize that using a period was perceived as bad before reading this article.
And! As we discussed above, some people might even be putting off their response because of their own anxiety. We are all overwhelmed with messages and notifications every day, it all just starts to become white noise and can make some people paralyzed.
Change the Story
A great exercise I practice is to imagine them smiling and being happy-go-lucky as they type the text. It’s also kind of funny, so it makes me laugh. Laughing is a great way to relieve anxiety!
Most of us automatically go to the negative and picture the sender as being in a bad mood or being mad at us for some unknown reason. We are projecting our fears onto them.
But we can change the story. Project positivity and sunshine. I mean, go ahead and add a few rainbows while you're at it. It won't hurt!
The point is to change your tendency to imagine the worst possible scenario into imagining the best possible scenario. This won't just improve your texting anxiety, it has long-range positive effects on almost everything in your life.
Our imagination can have a powerful effect on our lives. It's up to us to push it in a healthier and more positive direction.
There’s No Need to Be Overwhelmed with Text Messages
Smartphones are not going away and we are going to have to adapt or be left behind. Unless our goal is to be like Thoreau in the woods—which isn't a horrible idea, to be honest—we are going to have to figure out a way around the anxiety monster getting its grubby hands on our phones.
Try the tips on the list and see if it helps. The main thing to remember is that your interpretation and perspective of the situation is everything in figuring out how to overcome texting anxiety. It can mean the difference between heart palpitations and living your life with a more carefree outlook. I, for one, am going to try for the latter! Who’s with me?