December 29, 2020
You step into the elevator to make your way up to your doctor’s appointment. You felt absolutely fine in the lobby, but as you walk down the hall towards the doctor’s office, your heart begins to beat faster. Your breath shortens — you panic and want to leave as you approach the waiting room. That experience is common for people who experience iatrophobia, an intense fear of going to the doctor.
It’s estimated that 12.5 percent of adults in the U.S. experience a phobia at some point in their lives. A phobia is a strong, irrational fear of something that does not pose much actual danger. Height, flying, highway driving, and water are all other common triggers for phobias. Those who experience phobias often try to avoid the circumstances that make them anxious. While it may be possible to avoid tall buildings (acrophobia), there is a whole category of phobias that aren’t so easy to avoid: medical phobias.
What all medical phobias have in common is that they have similar symptoms. In each case, the person will experience panic or extreme fear when thinking about the cause of their phobia. Sufferers of a medical phobia often recognize that their fear is irrational, but feel powerless to control it — and their anxiety often increases the closer they get to the cause of the phobia.
Fears tied to medicine are tough because they can prevent people from seeking or receiving treatment they need. If you’re feeling more than a little nervous on your next trip to the doctor, you might be dealing with one of five of these common phobias:
If you have tomophobia, it might be hard to get to the doctor at all; it’s the fear of surgical procedures and medical interventions. This phobia most commonly triggered by the thought of undergoing surgery, and it may be related to or combined with other medical phobias below. The big danger with this one? It may cause you to avoid important treatments altogether.
That squeamish feeling you get when you see blood gushing out of an open wound? Imagine that multiplied many times over, and the result is hemophobia. This phobia is unique in that is can cause a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to fainting — in addition to the other challenges posed by medical phobias.
Almost all children experience some fear of needles thanks to the routine course of injections they receive. But for some people, the fear becomes more significant and evolves into trypanophobia, a fear of needles. This phobia is particularly important to overcome — especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as vaccines become available.
Few people look forward to a regular trip to the dentist, especially if they haven’t been flossing. However, those who suffer from dentophobia are so afraid they may skip visits altogether, which will only amplify oral health issues. If someone even mentioning the dentist sends you into a panic, you may be suffering from this phobia.
Disease is a part of the human condition; everyone gets sick. But those with nosophobia are so afraid of disease that it overwhelms their ability to participate in daily life. While it may be easily confused with hypochondria (a general fear of illness), nosophobia involves worrying about a specific disease or medical condition irrationally.
Treatment for all of these phobias shares a common objective: to help you live your life without being controlled by fear. For many people, therapy that involves talking, and exposure to the source of phobia, can be helpful. In extreme cases, medication can help a person while they learn to overcome their phobia.
If you suffer from a medical phobia, there are resources available to help you overcome it. The most important thing is to not avoid or put off treatment that you need; that would truly be something to fear.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.