Understanding And Overcoming Iatrophobia (Fear Of Doctors)
When we were young, we all had a fear of needles or doctors, but with time and understanding, the fear resolved on its own. But, do you know that there are some people who still struggle with the fear of doctors? Fear of doctors is referred to as Iatrophobia. Iatrophobia is an extreme or irrational fear of doctors, medical care, or the overall medical system.
Visiting doctors or continuous hospital visits can actually cause anxiety in anyone. For some people, the anxiety resolves on its own. However, some people can start panicking due to the increased level of specific phobias such as iatrophobia. In this blog, we will be taking a deep look at what iatrophobia is and how we can treat it. So, let’s get started!
What is Iatrophobia?
Iatrophobia is an extreme fear of doctors wherein a person generally tries to avoid visiting hospitals, getting medical tests, or going near to the doctors. The term Iatrophobia originated from two Greek words “iatros” which means healer and “phobo” which means fear.
Normally, people feel nervous before visiting a doctor but the anxiety resolves after meeting them. people struggling with iatrophobia often feel difficulty before visiting a hospital and it’s quite difficult to identify the symptoms of iatrophobia in people because people generally feel nervous before meeting a doctor.
Someone struggling with iatrophobia might refuse to seek medical attention even when they’re sick. They generally ignore symptoms to avoid the need to visit a doctor or hospitalization. Only a mental health professional can make a proper diagnosis of this full-blown phobia.
Related Fears to Iatrophobia:
- Illness Anxiety Disorder: Hypochondriasis
- Fear of disease: Nosophobia
- Fear of dentists: Dentophobia
- Fear of needles or pointed objects: Trypanophobia
- Fear of choking or angina: Anginaphobia
- Fear of being touched: Aphenphosmphobia
- Fear of disorder: Ataxophobia
- Fear of bacteria: Bacteriophobia
- Fear of childbirth: Lockiophobia
- Fear of hospitals: Nosocomephobia
- Fear of germs: Verminophobia
- Fear of cancer: Carcinophobia
- Fear of heart disease: Cardiophobia
- Fear of blood: Hemophobia
- Fear of medication: Pharmacophobia
- Fear of death: Thanatophobia
- Fear of injury: Traumatophobia
Symptoms of Iatrophobia
Below are some of the common symptoms of iatrophobia:
1. Obsessive worrying:
Generally, doctor appointment-related anxiety or nervousness resolves on its own. But, in the cases of iatrophobia, you can see an individual excessively worrying about encountering the doctor.
In some extreme cases, people can also be triggered by the thinking of meeting a doctor or going through medical tests. People struggling with iatrophobia often distract themselves from anxiety and try to cover the symptoms or fears due to fear of judgment.
2. Presence of other illness-related phobias:
In some extreme cases, iatrophobia can be a combination of fear of doctors, medical care, dentists, fear of needles, fear of medical tests, fear of lab coats, and overall fear of the medical system. Some people also become obsessed with inconsequential ailments due to fear of requiring medical treatment.
In some cases, hypochondriasis (illness anxiety disorder) and nosophobia (fear of disease) can also be the case. Both of these fears are not related to the fear of a doctor specifically but psychologically there are chances of being diagnosed with an illness. It’s a fact that avoiding doctors or avoiding official diagnosis can make the illness more difficult to treat.
3. Constant postponing or cancelling doctor’s appointments:
Someone struggling with iatrophobia will merely experience nervousness due to which they will always be seen avoiding doctor’s appointments. Putting up with yourself for checkups, routine care, or vaccinations can be so extreme that it can result in more serious illness. Therefore, it is important to learn how to overcome iatrophobia and seek an official diagnosis for the right treatment approach.
4. White coat hypertension:
I found various studies and evidence that stated the phenomenon of white coat hypertension. White coat hypertension (WCH) refers to a situation wherein a person deals with a high level of stress and blood pressure by visiting or seeing a doctor. Generally, during ‘WCH’ the blood pressure rises and it gets normal after being checked or coming back to the home.
Due to the above-listed situations, an individual struggling with iatrophobia can experience:
- Extreme fear
- Sweating or shakiness
- Rapid breathing or heart palpitations
Causes of Iatrophobia
Research shows that children are more prone to developing iatrophobia as they associate their visits to doctors with shots or vaccinations. Apart from this, below-listed can be some possible reasons for developing iatrophobia:
- Constant doctor visits during childhood to manage a chronic health condition.
- Bad history or experiences with doctors.
- Struggled with a chronic condition or life-threatening diseases that require frequent visits, painful tests, or treatment
- Received a lot of bad news from healthcare professionals
- Lost a loved one due to a medical condition
- History or genetics of anxiety disorder or phobias
- Experienced traumatic events related to hospitals or doctors
Diagnosis of Iatrophobia
If you think you or your loved one might be struggling with iatrophobia, you can connect with a behavioral therapist to seek proper diagnosis and treatment.
During diagnosis, please know that iatrophobia is a situation-phobic disorder that needs proper diagnosis and advice from experienced and registered mental health professionals only. In order to receive a diagnosis of Iatrophobia, please follow the below check-list:
- Fear should be so intense that it must persist for more than six months
- Symptoms related to fear must be induced before visiting a doctor or while thinking about visiting a doctor
- The fear or anxiety of visiting a doctor must be so intense that it can make you feel unwell
- Symptoms must be so severe that it affects your overall quality of life and health
- The symptoms must not correlate with the presence of another type of phobia or mental health condition
Treatment of Iatrophobia
Generally, psychotherapy and medications can be the frontline treatment for iatrophobia:
Psychotherapy can be a really effective option for treating iatrophobia as it helps in overcoming trauma or fears related to doctors or medical care and helps in seeking treatment to improve overall quality of life. below are some commonly used psychotherapy options for treating iatrophobia:
1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps in replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Additionally, they also help in learning healthy coping strategies to change problematic behaviors and perceptions.
2. Exposure therapy: During exposure therapy sessions, a therapist gradually exposes the client to the source of fear with a combination of relaxation strategies to treat the fear.
3. Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy helps in changing thinking related to doctors or medical procedures with the help of hypnotic trances or therapies.
Medications are prescribed to treat some specific symptoms such as depression, nausea, dizziness, and anxiety. Generally, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are prescribed to treat symptoms related to iatrophobia.
Self-Help Strategies to Overcome Iatrophobia
Along with talk therapy and medications, you can try the below-listed self-help strategies to overcome iatrophobia:
- Make small moves and in the beginning, you can try seeking therapy through online platforms or use telemedicine apps to seek medical-related advice.
- Avoid visiting hospitals during rush hours, instead make an appointment and take your family member or loved one along.
- Try reading self-help books during the waiting time to seek motivation and support.
- Instead of visiting huge building hospitals, try booking an appointment at a doctor’s office so that you can feel comfortable.
- Communicate your symptoms or issues associated with phobia to the doctor directly so that you can address your issues and seek a proper diagnosis.
- Join a support group to feel supported and motivated.
- Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you know if you have iatrophobia?
It’s important to understand some common signs and symptoms of iatrophobia such as nausea, dizziness, excessive sweating and shaking, and breathlessness. Additionally, excessive or obsessive worrying about visiting hospitals or doctors can also help in identifying the fear of doctors.
2. What is Iatrophobia and what causes it?
Iatrophobia is defined as the intense fear of medical care, doctors, or the overall medical system. There could be different reasons behind the development of iatrophobia such as social or economic barriers or fear of needles or pain.
3. Can Iatrophobia cause a fear of medical tests?
Yes, iatrophobia can also cause a fear of medical tests, fear of medical care, fear of doctors, or the fear of the overall medical setting. Fear of medical tests can make you even more sick due to extreme panic attacks or anxiety.
4. Who can develop iatrophobia?
People of all ages can be diagnosed with iatrophobia. Certain conditions such as life-threatening health conditions, barriers, socioeconomic disadvantages, traumatic experiences involving medical care or doctors, or a history of mental health conditions can put people at risk of developing iatrophobia.
5. Who is at risk of iatrophobia?
Research shows that people struggling with anxiety disorder are more prone to developing a fear of doctors. Hypochondriasis of illness anxiety disorder can cause excessive worrying due to which a person might avoid visiting a doctor even after getting really sick. Additionally, people who smoke or consume substances are at risk of developing this phobia as they fear hearing bad news about their health or recommendations to quit using substances.
I hope this blog helps you understand and overcome iatrophobia which is the fear of doctors. Comment down and share your views on the same.
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Thanks for reading!