Texting anxiety. What is it? Let me elaborate. 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. Or 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 called texting anxiety plaguing our minds, to understand why we feel overwhelmed by texts and how to overcome it.
What Is Texting Anxiety?
A textbook texting anxiety definition is still hard to find given that this is 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.
Overthinking the appropriate texting etiquette can also make you anxious. For instance, if you’ve started talking to a guy you really like, deciding whether or not to text him first can turn you into a nervous wreck. Or if a girl you like has texted you, you may find yourself fidgeting with your phone, writing and erasing your reply, because you just can’t decide what the appropriate response would be.
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 be 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.
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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. For example, dating with social anxiety can be hard as it is, and those troublesome feelings can become harder to manage if you also have to keep the back-and-forth of messages going to keep a prospective partner interested.
“Do I have texting anxiety?” is something you might end up asking yourself. Do you feel anxiety about being left on read? Get nervous to text him or her thinking if they would reply or not? Feel anxiety when someone doesn’t text back? Or do you feel notification anxiety when you are in a conference and can’t read the text that just landed on your phone?
If you feel these emotions, then chances are you have texting anxiety. Feeling overwhelmed by text messages is one of the most characteristic texting anxiety symptoms. If you look deeper into the texting anxiety symptoms, it can be broken down into three clear manifestations. Here is how Front Psychiatry describes them:
- Restlessness: A spike in feelings of anxiety when waiting for a response to a text or feeling pressured to reply to one right away
- Being compulsively hooked: The compelling need to check your phone as soon as you hear a ‘ding’ or see a notification on your device
- Strong need to be connected: 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, coworker, or member of the family.
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10 Signs of Texting Anxiety
We can probably understand new relationship anxiety but texting anxiety is relatively new. 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. You often read it out loud and when you are doing that if anyone wants to talk to you, you become really perturbed. This is texting anxiety while replying to messages.
2. Overanalyzing 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 overanalyze 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.
This scrutiny is the direct result of the anxious feelings building up inside of you whenever interacting with some over texts. Of course, the intensity is much more when the person on the other side is a love interest. For anyone with dating anxiety, texting proves to be a challenge.
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. You feel overwhelmed by text messages and the pressure to reply instantly to every text landing in your chat window can get exhausting at times.
Even so, your mind doesn’t rest easy until you have opened that unread message and responded. Most importantly you feel anxiety about being left on read in someone’s inbox. You do not like it if your message isn’t replied to immediately. “He didn’t reply to the message I sent in the morning. I’m pretty sure he’s ghosting me” – if this sounds familiar, you’re dealing with texting anxiety. As an anxious person, imagining worst-case scenarios has become second nature to you, and you channelize it in your text interactions as well.
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4. The typing bubbles are your nemesis
Nothing puts you more over the edge than those typing bubbles 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.
You not only experience anxiety while receiving messages, those few seconds that someone takes in typing out a message also give you immense anxiety. Here too, it’s the case of imagining worst-case scenarios getting to you, and that’s precisely why you feel overwhelmed by text messages.
5. Not receiving a response sets off your panic mode
This is common in the case of someone experiencing texting anxiety when dating. No matter what the rules of texting while dating say, a part of you needs instant responses to rest assured that all is well in your romantic paradise. If your significant other hasn’t responded to your text, you go in panic mode and assume the worst. Even a couple of hours of delay is enough to convince you that they’re done with you and are now ghosting you. You suffer from texting anxiety when someone doesn’t text back.
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. You fail to realize that expressing something face-to-face and writing it down is not the same. Not everyone is expressive over text. Texting anxiety in relationships can become the source of chronic conflicts, but you know that already, don’t you?
7. You are prone to text regret
Despite all the overanalyzing, 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. You are always in two minds about sending a text and you are never sure even after sending it. You get nervous to text him or her when you are dating, always thinking if you are writing the right thing.
8. You have to psych yourself up to respond
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 psych yourself up for a good 10 minutes before you can start framing a reply.
This tendency stems from certain underlying issues that make you anxious as a person, owing to which your response to any suggestion to go out or do something fun is to say no. At the same time, you have a hard time saying ‘no’ to others. So, torn between your instinctive need to say no and not being able to, your texting anxiety shoots through the roof.
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. This is a classic case of texting anxiety.
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. You are overwhelmed by text messages, not only the ones you receive but also the ones you send.
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 willpower 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 to 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. That’s one approach to how to stop worrying about a text back. Now, there is no pressure to let go of whatever it is you’re doing and respond immediately. At the same time, you need to train your mind to not fixate on that notification alert. Otherwise, the whole purpose is defeated.
If there is a tiny voice in your head, saying, “Check your phone. Check your phone. CHECK YOUR PHONE”, mindfully remind yourself that the sender has received an auto-reply and you can respond at your convenience. Then, go back to whatever it is you were doing. It won’t be easy, and you won’t always be able to rein in that strong impulse to check a message the second it arrives – not at first, anyway – but with practice, you’ll get there.
2. Don’t have serious conversations over texts
Ana was in a new relationship and often found herself feeling edgy during text conversations with her new beau. Even more so, when he led with messages like, “Babe, can I ask you something?” She was no stranger to texting anxiety in relationships but found it harder to break the pattern. The wait for the follow-up to ‘can I ask you something’ would drive her crazy. Such messages convinced her that a breakup text is coming her way.
“Everything is going so well, then why do I get nervous when he texts me?” she asked her friend, who told her to steer clear of serious conversations over texts. “Just tell him, let’s talk about it when we meet,” if discussing important things over messages makes you so uncomfortable. This could be your answer to how to deal with texting anxiety as well.
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
A simple way to overcome texting anxiety is to acknowledge it first. Then, prepare yourself to voice your emotions. No, I’m not saying that you start telling all and sundry that you struggle with texting anxiety. But at least, 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 empathize with you and make an effort to be swift with their responses. If your partner doesn’t know that not hearing back from them for even a couple of hours makes you nervous, how will they do their bit to help make it easier on you? So, if you often wonder how to stop worrying about a text back, being vocal about your needs is a good place to start.
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. Sharon was fuming when she sent a cute text to tell her boyfriend she was missing him, and he responded with a heart emoji. Her thoughts went from “Why would he send just a heart emoji?” to “I’m sure he is losing interest in me.”
As it turned out, he was in a meeting and had hurriedly sent that reply rather than leave Sharon waiting. When she found out, Sharon was mortified about having overreacted. “How to stop worrying about a text back?” she wondered.
One simple way to overcome texting anxiety is to 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 onto the other person. When such thoughts start bothering you, think of the happy times you’ve had together. This will help you overcome your insecurities and reinforce positivity.
This is also the answer to how to get rid of texting anxiety. Being in touch with your emotions and learning to deal with them the right way, rather than unknowingly projecting your emotional bile on the other person, is one of the best ways to overcome texting anxiety. Sure, you may not see a change instantly. But with some self-awareness and patience, your patterns will begin to change.
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6. Don’t check texts after waking up
How to get rid of texting anxiety? Try to change your relationship with your phone. That will be half the battle won. You should never check your texts first thing in the morning. Because the moment you do that, you will be hit by notification anxiety.
You will start replying to messages, start thinking of this and that and your mental peace will be affected. When you begin your day with a hit of anxiety, you can rest assured that it will only snowball over the course of the day. So, create a calming routine to start off your day. Have coffee, do yoga, enjoy the morning and only then pick up the phone.
7. Keep the phone away
Being overwhelmed by text messages and at the same time not being able to stop engaging with every text that lands in your chat box is a vicious circle. One feeds off the other, and the victim is you. Your phone is not a part of your body. So learn to keep it away once you finish your workday.
Make your boss and colleagues aware that after working hours you will only reply when you are available. Keep the phone away when you watch Netflix, cook a meal or spend time with family. Keeping the phone outside the bedroom at night is a good idea as well.
8. Switch off the mobile on the weekend
A great idea is to switch off your mobile on a Sunday. If you take a break from your mobile for one whole day, you will know there are no texts to reply to, so texting anxiety won’t plague you. Gadgets can ruin relationships; so instead of staying glued to your phone, spend time with your loved ones and enjoy their presence in your life.
If you’re in a new relationship, spend the weekend with your SO IRL as often as possible rather than communicating over text messages. That way, you won’t have to worry about “why do I get nervous when he texts me?”, at least for those two days you’re together. Besides, the quality time spent together will serve as the reassurance you need to deal with texting anxiety in the relationship for the week ahead.
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. Texting anxiety will be a thing of the past.
Texting gives you anxiety because of 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 can become a source of distraction. People affected by it spend unhealthy amounts of time on their phones just trying to resolve the unease and tension they feel within.
Have auto-replies on your phone, tell yourself that a text doesn’t need an immediate reply and develop the habit of staying away from your phone when you are not working.
Stay calm, do not pick up your phone the moment you wake up in the morning, do not have serious conversations on text, try to create a weekend routine when you switch off the phone and try to think that the other person is busy when they are not replying to your text.
Do yoga, spend time with your dear ones, relax and watch TV or cook up a nice meal and ensure the phone is away from you when you are doing all this.