What Is Technophobia?

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What Is Technophobia?

Technophobia, or the fear of technology, is the intense fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices, especially computers.

Technophobia is surprisingly common. Some experts believe that we all experience at least a small amount of nervousness when confronted with new technology. In today's rapidly changing world, it can be easy to feel out of touch.

While the exact prevalence is unknown, an estimated one-third of the population is thought to be affected by some degree of technophobia.

Technophobia may seem like a new phenomenon, a product of the information age that began in the 1960s and continues to ramp up at lightning speed today. Yet there were reports of technophobia at least as early as the Industrial Revolution.

Symptoms of Technophobia

Technophobia can lead to symptoms of distress when confronting new technology. If this fear is severe enough to be considered a specific phobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder, people with technophobia may experience symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach upset
  • Sweating
  • Trembling

It is also common for people with technophobia to be fearful of situations where they might be expected to use technology. This can result in avoidance behaviors such as refusing to use computers, cell phones, ATMs, or other devices. Such avoidance can sometimes make it difficult to function in daily life.

Diagnosis of Technophobia

Technophobia is described as abnormal anxiety or fear related to the effects of technology. However, it is not recognized as a distinct disorder by the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM-5-TR).

In some cases, symptoms might meet the diagnostic criteria for a specific phobia. Even if your fear is not a formal diagnosis, your doctor may still treat it in the same way as a specific phobia.

Your doctor will start by asking you questions about your symptoms, including what they are like, how severe they are, and how they affect your life.

A specific phobia is defined as an intense fear of a specific object or situation. It causes unreasonable and excessive fear that produces an immediate anxiety response. It also leads to avoidance behaviors and creates limitations in a person's ability to function in everyday life.

Causes of Technophobia

The fear of technology usually is not attributable to a single cause. Instead, a variety of different factors may play a role. Whenever there are major changes in how we do things, particularly if machines are involved, technophobia is more likely to occur.

Social and Cultural Factors

The more frequently people use an item, the more comfortable and confident they become with its use. Traditionally, teens and young adults are the first to embrace new products and the first to become proficient with them, followed shortly by younger children.

Adults are generally somewhat slower to adopt new technologies, and some older adults may never embrace them.

Doomsday Scenarios

One of the more alarming situations related to fear of technology is a doomsday scenario. From sentient robots bent on destruction to missiles that launch themselves and begin World War III, films, literature, and TV shows are filled with "technology gone wrong."

These popular depictions of the modern apocalypse fueled by technology can contribute to the fear of new technologies. Speculation about the impact of artificial intelligence, for example, may also play a part in fear of the future of technology.

Mass Hysteria

The Y2K scare is one example of how mass hysteria contributed to fear of technology. As the rumor went, banks, government agencies, and society as we knew it was going to shut down the moment that we passed into the new millennium, because computer designers forgot to program the systems to handle four-digit dates. The theory was that the two-digit 00 year would cause the networks to crash.​

Of course, January 1, 2000, came and went without incident. Most major systems were already capable of handling four-digit dates, and those that didn't were mostly reprogrammed well before the critical date. Even those home computers that weren't reprogrammed made it through with barely a hiccup.

Treatment for Technophobia

Talk to your doctor if your symptoms of technophobia are interfering with your ability to function and cope with daily life. Treatments are available that can reduce these feelings of fear and anxiety. Some of the treatments your doctor might suggest include:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is an approach that involves identifying and changing the negative thoughts that play a role in causing feelings of fear. Talking to a therapist can help you learn to recognize when thoughts are irrational and find ways to replace them with more positive, adaptive ways of thinking.
  • Exposure therapy involves being exposed to the thing that a person fears until the feelings of anxiety gradually subside.
  • Medications such as antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers may also be prescribed to help people cope with symptoms of anxiety. Such medications are most effective when used in conjunction with some form of therapy.

Coping With Technophobia

Technological tools are a part of daily life, so having technophobia can make it very difficult to engage in everyday activities such as banking, accessing health information, and communicating with friends and family.

Research suggests that technophobia can have a detrimental impact on the lives and health of older adults, particularly as digital skills have become an increasingly necessary part of daily living.

Whether you are dealing with a fear of technology or just feeling a bit out of your depth when it comes to using tech tools, there are some steps you can take to cope and feel more comfortable.

Ask for Help

Sometimes, having someone you trust to show you how to use a technology you are unfamiliar with can make it much less intimidating. Such support can improve coping, reduce stress, and increase technology engagement.

One study found that among older adults who reported struggling with technology, their primary way of coping was to ask a younger person (often a grandchild) for assistance.

Take a Class

If your fear stems from a lack of knowledge and experience, consider signing up for a community education class. Such classes are often focused on helping adults learn more about the basics of using computers or different types of computer software.

Set Goals

Make it a goal to learn new technology, but focus on one thing at a time to avoid becoming overwhelmed. For example, a person with technophobia would benefit from first learning how to operate a computer. Then they might learn how to use a web browser to visit websites. Then they might learn how to use a cell phone.

The key is to take it one step at a time and become comfortable with one technology before moving on to the next. As skill and confidence develop, people may find that they gradually become less fearful of trying new digital tools.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Lisa Fritscher
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer and editor with a deep interest in phobias and other mental health topics.