Text Anxiety : Therapy in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville & Santa Fe
Text anxiety occurs when you experience excess worry related to sending or receiving a text message. This can include feeling anxious after sending a text, when waiting for a response, or over analyzing a response. In this day and age of technology, online dating, and the threat of our digital words being publicized and used against us, it makes sense why text anxiety is so common. Our communication has changed dramatically and there is a lot that is different. You have the ability to re-read everything and show it to friends, which can lead to overanalyzing and possible misunderstandings. Additionally, there is not a clear way to denote tone, which means that someone can read a text message or a direct message (DM) however they see fit. Conversations that could have lasted a few minutes can be drawn out over hours or days because although we have the technologic ability to respond immediately, we often don’t, because we text or email while doing other things. This can also put us on edge because we don’t know when or if the other person will respond. Ghosting, which is when someone who we are speaking to or seeing all of a sudden stops responding and cuts off contact. This phenomenon has also led to text anxiety. Being “ghosted” is generally used in reference to dating. Because not many people have read receipts, or the ability to notify people when we read a text, we often have no way of knowing whether someone is busy or if they are ghosting. We don’t know when they read it and for what reasons they may be waiting to respond. This often makes our brains jump to the worst case scenario to try to explain what’s going on and prepare us for hurt.
Enter the anxiety part of text anxiety. Anxiety is a natural human emotion there to protect us. Anxiety can serve us if we are in a potentially dangerous situation or we need to get something done quickly. For example, when walking down a dark street at night or when we have a deadline quickly approaching. However, sometimes anxiety is not productive and is overactive, and we have to recalibrate it.
Oftentimes, text anxiety arises to protect us from the disappointment of being let down. It can also come about if we are prone to obsessing over ways we act or things we say and others’ reactions to it. When a person who we text does not respond in the way we expect, it can create obsessive thoughts based on what may appear to be hard evidence of rejection and therefore create a spike in anxiety.
Text anxiety can also make us more hesitant and overthink things we send before we send them. Although it is generally a good thing to think about what to say before you say it, especially online, it turns unhelpful when we spend too much time on it, or when we overthink simple word choices or grammar. This is because it increases anxiety and stress. It can also restrict us from fully being ourselves and being in the moment.
So, we know text anxiety can be unhelpful and stressful, but how can we combat it? (We believe that therapy can help. TCFG offers text therapy in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville & Santa Fe)
Discover your fear. This can be scary and uncomfortable, but try to ask yourself where this anxiety is coming from. What are you worried will happen? Worst case scenario, what occurs? What if the person does not respond? Will the person change their opinion of you? Etc. Getting to the bottom of the fear is an important first step.
Investigate this fear. Where is this coming from? Did someone do this before? Do you have a voice saying that you’re not good enough or no one likes you? Whose voice is this?
Challenge the fear. Ask yourself what the worst case scenario is and what that would say about you, then ask yourself the likelihood of this happening and if it would matter in a day, a week, a month, or a year. Remind yourself how this situation, and maybe this person, is different from a previous situation or person you experienced before. Tell that voice you are taking over control and what they are saying isn’t true and isn’t you. You can also put the thought/fear on trial. This involves making a list of all the evidence in favor of the thought/fear, and of all the evidence against it. An example of evidence for the fear could be “I’ve been ghosted before,” and an example of evidence against the fear could be “the person may be on a work call or in the shower.” You can also pull from your own life and experiences. For example, maybe you spend 3 seconds reading a text or a DM yourself, or you have gone days without looking at your phone for hours. Ask yourself, “what did my own behaviors or intentions in this regard mean about the recipient of my own text message?” If I were to guess, your behaviors had way more to do with you and your schedule than it did about the texts you received or who you received them from.
Reframe, test reality, and release control. Sometimes the fear that text anxiety comes from is an inherently positive one. Maybe you want to ensure that you don’t offend someone. That is a positive trait. It’s admirable that you don’t want to offend or hurt someone. So first pat yourself on the back for that. Then, think about what your responsibility is and what control you have over someone’s reaction. Besides doing or saying something blatantly offensive (which if you care this much about not offending or hurting someone, you likely will not) you have no power over how someone reacts, responds, or reads something. Let go of some of that pressure you’re putting on yourself. Let go of your attempts to control things that you cannot. All you can do is be yourself. If someone reads that wrong, you can always correct it, and it becomes an experience that deepens the relationship. It can also be a sign that maybe you weren’t meant to be or you’re not compatible. This doesn’t lessen the hurt that it may cause you, but try to think about your responsibility and your control. Accept that you may have already sent the text and there’s nothing you can do about it as there is no crystal ball that tells you how the other person will react to it. Just being you is more than enough.
Establish expectations. This is especially important if you are starting in a new relationship, but is also important to minimize texting anxiety. If you know what to expect, you will spend less time wondering. So, ask yourself and your partner,”what are your expectations for communication?” “What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communication?” Maybe one of you puts their phone away during the work day and only looks at it during their breaks. Maybe someone is easily distracted and looks at texts but forgets to respond. It is not likely that you will find someone with the exact same expectations and strengths as you. So, first think about what your expectations are. Do you expect someone to respond to you right away? Can that person do that? How can you make a compromise so that your needs are getting met in a way that works for both of you? If you expect an immediate response but you are seeing or speaking to a surgeon who doesn’t have access to their phone 24/7 or at least during hours-long surgeries, expectations and realistic capabilities don’t match. But, if you discuss communication and expectations, then you can reach an agreement or at least find some comfort in knowing that this person may be in surgery and their lack of responding has nothing to do with you. Regardless, establishing and communicating clear expectations is important to ensure the goal lines stay consistent and your partner knows what you want and expect from them.
Do not text screenshots and overanalyze responses or texts with a friend you know will hype up your fears and make things a bigger deal than they are. If you want to talk to a friend or family member, go through some of the exercises above with them. Come up with lists of evidence for and against. Discuss your fears and challenge them together.This will also allow for another perspective on those things that are more productive.
Consider the impact of your text anxiety behaviors. Do they help you reach the goals that are motivating you to do these behaviors? In other words, are these behaviors just a bandaid and not good for you long term? If you are trying to find a long-term partner and your text anxiety is coming from a place where you want a relationship to thrive, is revising your message for an hour and potentially not being yourself the best way to do that? Will these behaviors serve you long-term?
Think about behavioral ways to decrease your anxiety. Try calling more than texting.If you’re speaking with potential suitors on dating apps you can tell them that you prefer speaking in person instead of over the app, so you want to set up a date. In addition, if you know you struggle with text anxiety, don’t rely too much on texting or direct messaging. There are certain things you can do to decrease the anxiety, or at least shift the ratios of how often you communicate in certain ways. You can also try to do something to distract you. Go for a walk or call a friend or family member, or do things where you can’t look at your phone often, like a workout class or a long shower. You can also limit the amount of time or places when you look at your phone. This can be self-imposed or you can create restrictions on your phone.
Text anxiety is real and it is very difficult. It can bring up insecurities and anxieties that have been with you for your entire life and/or that appear in other areas of your life. The recommendations above are just a start. If you feel like you would like more help dealing with text anxiety, social anxiety, or any kind of anxiety, The Center for Growth is here to help. Schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled Center for Growth therapists. You can self schedule an in-person or virtual therapy session HERE or by calling the Center for Growth at (215) 922-5683 x 100.For your convenience we have 5 physical offices and provide virtual therapy services in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico and Virginia.
Text Anxiety: Anxiety Therapy in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville
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