Folks with iatrophobia have an extreme fear of medical professionals, doctors, illness, or medical tests.
If you’re living with iatrophobia, it can cause issues with your health and trust of doctors, nurses, or medical assistants. It may cause you to delay routine care, vaccinations, and other appointments that could keep you healthy.
Even if you don’t have extreme fear, the idea of going to the doctor may make you nervous, anxious, or uncomfortable. Fortunately, you can take steps to help ease your anxiety when visiting a doctor.
There are a lot of potential reasons you may feel anxiety or fear when visiting a doctor. Many people may have some anxiety over visiting a doctor.
A psychiatrist, medical doctor, or licensed counselor can diagnose whether your fear is a phobia like iatrophobia.
What is a phobia?
A phobia is an irrational, intense, and often impairing level of fear or anxiety related to a specific trigger.
You can experience a phobia of almost anything. For you, it may be related to doctors. For other people, phobias may involve inanimate objects or situations.
According to a
- illness and medical exams
- physician reactions
- barriers to care
While study authors could identify these three main reasons participants experienced iatrophobia, they also noted that the causes are largely not understood.
Some examples of potential fears related to visiting a doctor include:
- fear of getting a bad diagnosis
- apprehension about pain or discomfort from testing and exams
- fear of a doctor trivializing your symptoms or making you feel like you’ve blown your illness out of proportion
- fears of not being able to communicate well with a doctor if you speak another language
- worries that symptoms indicate a larger underlying condition
Regardless of exactly what causes your anxiety or fear of doctors, you can take steps to help push past your fears.
If you find yourself stressing out before going to a doctor or when making an appointment, these strategies may help.
Treat the underlying phobia
If you feel your fear of doctors goes beyond what is expected or you constantly avoid appointments, you may find it helpful to determine if you have iatrophobia. The only way to know is to speak to a psychologist or other mental health professional.
Treating phobias typically involves the use of medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.
One of the best ways to address a phobia is to lean into anxious feelings. This can help you flesh out catastrophic thoughts of what could happen at your appointment. Therapies that might help include:
Bring a friend to your appointment day
You can bring anyone you like to just about any doctor’s appointment as long as you both follow the rules of the facility.
Bringing a friend or family member can help you feel a bit more relaxed. They might also be able to answer some questions the doctor may have or provide other emotional support to you during your visit.
Make it work for your schedule
If you can, try to plan around your stressful times of the week or even day.
Do you feel worse on Mondays and more relaxed on Fridays? You might want to schedule your appointment for a Friday. Or maybe you prefer to get it over with early in your week, in which case a Monday morning appointment could work best for you.
Take time to mentally prep yourself
Before your appointment, you may find mindful meditation helpful. The key is to focus on speaking reason to your fears and affirming how you are your best health advocate.
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Targeting thoughts by asking questions to your inner critic can be pivotal. It might sound like this:
- Thought. “My doctor will think I’m a fool!”
- Direct self-queries. “Have they ever outwardly told me I am foolish?” or “Is answering questions and helping part of their job?”
- Challenge the thought. These thoughts could be tested by asking the doctor directly: “Are my questions dumb?” or “Am I a bad patient?
Ask for vitals to be the last thing taken
White coat hypertension is a bit controversial, but it refers to the idea that your blood pressure will rise to potentially unhealthy levels when visiting a doctor or specialist but will read at ordinary levels at home or in other settings.
You may find that taking your blood pressure after the rest of the appointment can help prevent this occurrence. You’re more likely to be at ease with a doctor toward the close of the appointment and will have already gotten through the majority of the time without issues.
Make a list of questions
You may find going prepared with questions to ask a doctor can help ease your anxiety and fear. It can give you a sense of control over your health and allow you to focus the discussion on topics important to you.
It could also be possible with modern charting services (like MyChart) to send these questions to your doctor before arriving.
Talk with a professional about your anxiety
When you visit a doctor, you may find it helpful to discuss your anxiety and fears with them. They will likely take some time to address your anxiety and help you feel more at ease with the appointment.
You may also want to speak with a therapist who can help you get to the root of your anxiety or phobia and even leverage therapeutic approaches to manage strong emotions when seeking medical care.
Iatrophobia is an extreme fear of doctors, bad diagnoses, or medical procedures in general. It’s common for folks to fear going to the doctor’s office or feel anxious about medical tests.
If you find your fears causing a lot of stress and interfering with wellness checkups or visiting the doctor when not feeling well, you might find that talking with a mental health professional may help.
You can also take steps to help ease your fears and anxieties, such as releasing negative thoughts, bringing a friend or family member along, and taking time to prepare yourself mentally for your appointment. This can include things like meditation or preparing questions ahead of time.