You send a text message. It has been 10 minutes and the person hasn’t responded. Worse still, you can see that they have read the message and still haven’t responded. You feel a knot churning in your stomach. You are in the middle of an intense chat with your partner, friend, or colleague, and those typing bubbles are making your heart pound in your chest. You can’t think of an appropriate response to a message and the delay in replying is making you fidgety and restless. You, my friend, are dealing with texting anxiety.
And you’re not alone. The changing dynamics of texting are turning more and more people into nervous wrecks. Let’s decode everything there’s to know about this new phenomenon plaguing our minds to understand why we feel overwhelmed by texts and how to overcome it.
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What Is Texting Anxiety?
A textbook texting anxiety definition is still hard to find given that this still an up and coming phenomenon that psychologists are trying to make sense of. It can be best described as the distress triggered due to text communications. This can happen when a person is waiting for a reply to a message they have sent or receives an unexpected text.
This anxiety can build up over time and become a contributing factor to the affected person’s stress levels. The unease experienced due to such text-based interactions – often because this mode of communication proves to a breeding misunderstanding – can become a source of distraction.
People affected by it tend to spend unhealthy amounts of time on their phones just trying to resolve the unease and tension they feel within.
Texting anxiety symptoms
As per the American Psychological Association, one in five people, as it is, view their smartphones as a source of stress due to this constant need to stay plugged in and connected. Add texting anxiety to the mix, and you’re in the thick of a hot mess.
The problem has become so aggravated, that research is being carried out to ascertain where this anxiety falls on the spectrum of psychological disorders and what can be done to combat it. People who already suffer from underlying mental health issues are more prone to texting anxiety but it can land just about anyone in its grip.
If you look at the texting anxiety symptoms, it can be broken down into three clear manifestations. Here how Front Psychiatry describes them:
- A spike in feelings of anxiety when waiting for a response to a text or feeling pressured to reply to one right away.
- The compelling need to check your phone as soon as you hear a ‘ding’ or see a notification on your device.
- Sending out a burst of text message to different people because you feel overcome with anxiety at the thought of not being connected.
There is also a direct connection between texting anxiety and relationships. The likelihood of someone experiencing texting crush anxiety or texting anxiety when dating is a lot higher than feeling anxious about texting a friend, co-worker, or member of the family.
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10 Signs of Texting Anxiety
We have all experienced that build-up of uneasiness when communicating with someone over texts. How do you differentiate between a fleeting spell of distress and being in the thick of the anxiety-inducing ecosphere of technology?
Look out for these 10 signs of texting anxiety to ascertain if you’re afflicted by it:
1. Reading a message multiple times
Whether you’re chatting with your significant other or your boss, you cannot hit send unless you’ve scrutinized the contents of your message several times over. You have to be sure that your text message is error-free and conveys exactly what you intend to say.
2. Overanalysing punctuations
You read that viral research study that claims that if someone puts a period at the end of their text message, they are being insincere or downright lying. Ever since you overanalyse every punctuation mark in the messages you send and receive. Why the period after ‘I love you’? Why did someone put five exclamation marks? What is the point of these ellipses? And so on.
3. You have turned off read receipts
You hate the read receipts feature for the pressure it puts on you to reply to every message instantly, and you’ve turned them off. Even so, your mind doesn’t rest easy until you have opened that unread message and responded.
4. The typing bubbles are your nemesis
Nothing puts you more over the edge that those typing bubbles or sign going on again and off again. In the few seconds or minutes that it takes for the impending message to arrive, you freak out imagining what could the other person be trying to say that’s so hard that they have to type, delete and retype repeatedly.
5. Not receiving a response sets off your panic mode
This is common in case of someone experiencing texting anxiety when dating. If your significant other hasn’t responded to your text, you go in panic mode and assume the worst. Even a couple hours of delay is enough to convince you that they’re done with you and are now ghosting you.
6. Text communication leads to misunderstandings
Texting anxiety and relationships can be a lethal combination when you tend to misinterpret the other person’s messages. If you can relate to this, these misunderstandings may have triggered several fights between you and your partner.
7. You are prone to text regret
Despite all the overanalysing, you regret a text message as soon as you hit the send button. That’s why you tend to unsend or delete messages that have been delivered but not read A LOT.
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8. You have to psyche yourself up for it
Your boss has dropped a text inviting the entire team to lunch. Your best friend texted to ask if you’d like to go to the movies. Your partner wants to spend the weekend together. No matter the contents of the messages you receive, you have to psyche yourself up for a good 10 minutes before you can start framing a reply.
9. You’re never the first to text
Not being able to pick up the phone and drop a text to someone you’re thinking about is a hallmark of texting anxiety. Even the thought of it fills your head with a gazillion questions – Will I seem needy? What if they don’t respond? What if they call up to chat?
By the time you’re done thinking about all this, you decide against sending that text.
10. You avoid your phone once you’ve sent a text
When you do text someone, you instinctively put your phone face down and get away from it. The anxiety of whether or not the person will respond becomes too overwhelming. And it only grows with every passing minute.
If you found yourself nodding at most of these signs, you don’t need to take the texting anxiety test to know if you’re afflicted. You most definitely are. Which brings us to the all-important question – How do I stop texting anxiety?
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How to Calm Texting Anxiety?
Anyone who struggles with these distressing emotions several times a day is bound to be desperate for an answer to ‘How do I stop texting anxiety?’ With a wee bit of will power and some actionable tips you can come up with a mechanism for calming texting anxiety:
1. Use auto-replies
One of the smartest ways to not get overwhelmed by texts is the set up the auto-reply feature on your phone. As soon as your phone beeps, the sender will receive an auto-response such as ‘Thank you for messaging. I will respond to you by the end of the day.’ This way you’ve acknowledged the message and let the sender know you’ll get back to them.
Now, there is no pressure to let go off whatever it is you’re doing and respond immediately.
2. Don’t have serious conversations over texts
Text messages are not the ideal medium of communication for an important conversation. So, don’t initiate any ‘big talks’ or drop bombshells via message. Not hearing back from the person will send your texting anxiety skyrocketing. No matter how uncomfortable the conversation may be, do it face-to-face. If you can’t brace yourself for that, a phone call is your next best bet.
3. Let your inner circle know about your texting anxiety
Let the people you tend to text most frequently – your partner, your BFF, your gang of co-workers, siblings – know how not receiving a response or continuous back-and-forth of text messages makes you feel. They will most certainly empathise with you and make more effort to be swift with their responses.
4. Cut others some slack
If you feel that a person’s response to your text message is bland or conveys a lack of interest, cut them some slack. Remind yourself that the other person could be caught up with something and may not have given much thought to how their response could be interpreted.
Or they may be dealing with texting anxiety of their own.
5. Do not project
When you get an unexpected text message or don’t receive one at all, don’t automatically assume that the other person is upset with you for some unknown reason. This is nothing but an act of projecting your fears on to the other person. When such thoughts start bothering you, think of the happy times you’ve had together. This will help assuage your insecurities and reinforce positivity.
Smartphones are here to stay, and so is this new medium of communication. So instead of feeling overwhelmed by texts, try to embrace them. Keep these tips in mind and use them to control your thoughts whenever you feel you’re flipping out of control.