How to overcome a fear of doctors

For some people, going to a medical appointment can be a source of great stress. It’s not just major medical problems and procedures that cause stress, either. Even preventive care visits, routine vaccinations, and basic care can cause some people to have a fear of going to the doctor.

What is a phobia of doctors?

A phobia is an intense fear of a particular thing, sometimes for no real reason. Some people have such an intense fear of doctors that they are said to have a phobia of doctors. The clinical word for this is, “iatrophobia.”

For some people, this phobia of doctors may manifest itself as general anxiety. For others it could be outright panic.

Why do some people have a fear of going to the doctor?

There can be many reasons a person has a fear of doctors. It could be fear of certain medical procedures, the pain of certain procedures, an anticipated diagnosis, fear that developed due to a bad experience with a certain doctor or during a prior visit to a doctor.

Some people are petrified of needles and are scared that they will have to have a blood test or vaccinations during their doctor visits.

Fear of doctors could also have no rational basis in reality, which is common for many types of phobias.

How do I know if I have a phobia of doctors?

It’s not uncommon to be nervous or a little anxious before a doctor visit—many people are. But a phobia is much more than that. Here are a few signs and symptoms that your fear may be more like a phobia:

  • You cancel doctor appointments or keep rescheduling them to avoid dealing with the fear; you don’t even get the preventive care and important vaccinations you may need to help stay healthy.
  • Instead of seeing a doctor when you’re sick, you try and self-treat.
  • In advance of a doctor appointment, you are unable to concentrate on anything else, lose sleep, may not eat, or cry at the thought of the upcoming appointment.
  • Do you have a fear of dentists, hospitals, and even sickness or illnesses? Some or all of these other types of fears are commonly combined with a fear of doctors.

If you experience any of the above you should talk to a therapist about your fear. They will be able to tell you if your anxiety and nerves about visiting the doctor are actually a phobia.

What are some ways to help overcome a fear of doctors:

  • If you are often afraid of going to the doctor, begin by asking yourself: Are you worried about a particular procedure or a diagnosis? Are you intimidated by doctors’ offices or hospital rooms? Would you be more comfortable with a different doctor?
  • Find support. A therapist may be able to help you understand if your fear of doctors is rational. They can help you find the true source of your anxiety and educate you on how to best manage your fear.
  • Bring a friend who can support you through doctors’ appointments. Perhaps a close friend or family member to provide moral support can help you get through the fear of a doctor appointment.
  • Get a new doctor or try another type of primary care provider. You may get along better with a new doctor, even a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Consider finding a provider whose personality or outlook you prefer.
  • In advance of an appointment, ask the doctor or health professional how many tests or procedures there will be so you know what to expect.

Managing any fear begins with understanding its source. If you’re not sure why you have a phobia of doctors, consider talking to a therapist for objective insight. The above tips on overcoming a fear of doctors may offer you some practical solutions.

For some people, going to a medical appointment can be a source of great stress. It’s not just major medical problems and procedures that cause stress, either. Even preventive care visits, routine vaccinations, and basic care can cause some people to have a fear of going to the doctor.

What is a phobia of doctors?

A phobia is an intense fear of a particular thing, sometimes for no real reason. Some people have such an intense fear of doctors that they are said to have a phobia of doctors. The clinical word for this is, “iatrophobia.”

For some people, this phobia of doctors may manifest itself as general anxiety. For others it could be outright panic.

Why do some people have a fear of going to the doctor?

There can be many reasons a person has a fear of doctors. It could be fear of certain medical procedures, the pain of certain procedures, an anticipated diagnosis, fear that developed due to a bad experience with a certain doctor or during a prior visit to a doctor.

Some people are petrified of needles and are scared that they will have to have a blood test or vaccinations during their doctor visits.

Fear of doctors could also have no rational basis in reality, which is common for many types of phobias.

How do I know if I have a phobia of doctors?

It’s not uncommon to be nervous or a little anxious before a doctor visit—many people are. But a phobia is much more than that. Here are a few signs and symptoms that your fear may be more like a phobia:

  • You cancel doctor appointments or keep rescheduling them to avoid dealing with the fear; you don’t even get the preventive care and important vaccinations you may need to help stay healthy.
  • Instead of seeing a doctor when you’re sick, you try and self-treat.
  • In advance of a doctor appointment, you are unable to concentrate on anything else, lose sleep, may not eat, or cry at the thought of the upcoming appointment.
  • Do you have a fear of dentists, hospitals, and even sickness or illnesses? Some or all of these other types of fears are commonly combined with a fear of doctors.

If you experience any of the above you should talk to a therapist about your fear. They will be able to tell you if your anxiety and nerves about visiting the doctor are actually a phobia.

What are some ways to help overcome a fear of doctors:

  • If you are often afraid of going to the doctor, begin by asking yourself: Are you worried about a particular procedure or a diagnosis? Are you intimidated by doctors’ offices or hospital rooms? Would you be more comfortable with a different doctor?
  • Find support. A therapist may be able to help you understand if your fear of doctors is rational. They can help you find the true source of your anxiety and educate you on how to best manage your fear.
  • Bring a friend who can support you through doctors’ appointments. Perhaps a close friend or family member to provide moral support can help you get through the fear of a doctor appointment.
  • Get a new doctor or try another type of primary care provider. You may get along better with a new doctor, even a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. Consider finding a provider whose personality or outlook you prefer.
  • In advance of an appointment, ask the doctor or health professional how many tests or procedures there will be so you know what to expect.

Managing any fear begins with understanding its source. If you’re not sure why you have a phobia of doctors, consider talking to a therapist for objective insight. The above tips on overcoming a fear of doctors may offer you some practical solutions.

How to overcome a fear of doctors

Why Are You Afraid to Go to the Doctor? 4 Common Fears

Does the feeling of walking into a doctor’s office, waiting for your name to be called, changing into a gown and going through a series of tests fill you with dread? You’re not alone.

Three percent of the population have a phobia of doctors, but many more put off seeing a physician because they’re anxious about how it will go or don’t want to hear bad news.

But seeing your doctor for regular checkups alleviates you of the unknown. And when you notice a troubling symptom, it is crucial to catch small problems before they become more serious. Here are the top reasons people are afraid of going to the doctor, and how to overcome those fears:

  1. You have unhealthy habits you can’t shake.
    Some people dread having to admit to their doctor that they eat a little too much fast food or haven’t exercised since high school. Some say they don’t want to listen to someone remind them of what they already know. But doctors are trained to be supportive. Their focus is not to judge, but to offer realistic suggestions to improve your health.
  1. You have a symptom that makes you worry it could be something serious.
    Many people say they don’t want to hear a diagnosis. But catching something early is often key to making sure it doesn’t turn into a larger health issue. If you don’t know how to bring something up that you’re worried about, there are plenty of tips for opening the dialogue with your doctor.
  1. You’re worried about how to pay for it.
    Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, the uninsured rate in Michigan has dropped from 12.5 percent to 8.5 percent. And for all of those with a plan, preventive care is covered. If you are one of the Michiganders who is still uninsured, now is the time to sign up for a 2016 plan and ensure you are covered for preventive health measures, such as immunizations or screening tests.
  1. You worry about how long a doctor’s visit can take.
    It can be tough to coordinate a trip to the doctor’s office around your busy schedule, but the short time you spend visiting the doctor now can prevent health issues later on. One way to make the most of your visit is to put together a list of all your health concerns. This way when you visit the doctor, you’ll have all of your questions answered in the appointment.

Interested in learning more about how non-scary a trip to your primary doctor can be? Try reading these other posts:

by Dave Carbonell, PhD

How to overcome a fear of doctors

People have a fear of doctors for a variety of reasons. You may fear hearing “bad news” from the doctor. You may regularly experience a rise in blood pressure on visiting the doctor, and fear the doctor will exaggerate its importance. You may be afraid of needles and the sight of blood.

If you are claustrophobic, you may fear waiting in a small examination room. If you experience panic attacks, you may fear any situation from which it is inconvenient or difficult to leave quickly, be it a haircut, a shower at the health club, or a visit to the doctor.

Don’t Fight the Fear!

My experience in helping people with a fear of doctors is that to try to hide these fears and “tough it out” almost always makes the anxiety worse. So I recommend that when you call for the appointment, you speak with whoever keeps the appointment schedule and tell that person, briefly, that you sometimes have difficulty with doctor visits because of anxiety or phobias; explain briefly what that fear is; and ask them to help make it easier for you.

If you just don’t know how to explain your problem so others will understand, you can liken it to claustrophobia, a condition in which people become very frightened whenever they are in a closed, small place. Since most people seem to know what claustrophobia is, this comparison can make your explanation easier.

Some of the arrangements that my patients have made included: shorter times waiting in the examination room; taking several measures of blood pressure throughout the visit, knowing that it will likely go down as you get used to being there; having a glass of water available; having a staff member check on you while you wait for the doctor; or having a support person with you. I’m sure there are as many possible arrangements as there are worries. I once worked with a woman whose fear of the dentist centered on seeing his white coat, so we arranged for him to wear street clothes for her first visit.

Beyond the specifics of these arrangements, it can be very helpful to know that the doctor is aware of your anxiety, and that you can talk about it, rather than try to hide it and fight it. In my experience, the effort to hide and fight the anxiety is often the most significant obstacle to recovery. This is the basis of the Anxiety Trick.

People often worry that the doctor won’t want to be bothered, or that the doctor’s staff will find their concerns ridiculous.

My patients have generally found that, once they talk to their doctor about this, the doctor is usually more understanding than they expected.

But if your doctor really doesn’t want to be bothered, find another doctor!

Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.

How to overcome a fear of doctors

Iatrophobia, or fear of doctors, is surprisingly common today.   Most of us do not particularly enjoy going to the doctor. From the often long waits to the cold, sterile environment to the possibility of a painful procedure, doctor visits can cause anxiety in nearly anyone. For some people, however, normal anxiety gives way to outright panic.

Is It Iatrophobia or Normal Anxiety?

Since it is normal to be nervous before a doctor visit, it can be difficult to tell whether your symptoms constitute a full-blown phobia. Only a qualified mental health professional can make this determination. However, a few signs may signify that your fear is out of proportion with normal anxiety towards doctors’ visits. You may experience all, some, or none of the following:

Related Symptoms

Obsessive Worrying

Normal anxiety is typically transitory. You might feel a wave of nervousness when actively thinking about an upcoming appointment. You may feel stress on the way to the doctor’s office or while sitting in the waiting room. However, you will not spend a great deal of time thinking about an upcoming visit, and you will be able to distract yourself from the anxiety if your fears are normal.

If you have iatrophobia, however, an upcoming doctor visit may be the source of endless worrying. You might find it difficult or impossible to focus on other things. Once you have reached the doctor’s office, you are likely to experience feelings of panic and a sensation of being out of control. You might sweat, shake or cry, or even refuse to enter the examination room.

Other Illness-Related Phobias

Many people with iatrophobia worry that they might need to see a doctor, even if no visits are currently scheduled. You might become obsessed with minor ailments, fearing that they will require medical treatment. It is relatively common for iatrophobia to occur alongside illness anxiety disorder (previously known as hypochondriasis) or nosophobia (fear of disease), which are both phobias of illness.  

Postponing Doctor Appointments

Those who merely experience nervousness about doctor visits typically do not try to avoid them. If you have iatrophobia, however, you might find yourself putting off checkups, vaccinations, and other routine care. You might suffer through even relatively serious illnesses on your own, rather than seeking professional treatment.  

Dentophobia

Although either phobia can occur independently, dentophobia, or fear of dentists, often occurs alongside iatrophobia. It is common for dentists to trigger the same fears as those triggered by doctors of all types.

White Coat Hypertension

Although controversial, the phenomenon of white coat hypertension has been documented by numerous researchers.   This occurs when the stress of seeing a doctor is enough to raise your blood pressure to a clinically significant level. Your blood pressure is normal when checked at home or in another setting, such as a health fair, but is high at the doctor’s office.

Coping

Iatrophobia can be more difficult to treat than many other phobias due to the nature of fear. While phobias can generally be treated with a combination of medications and therapy, many people with iatrophobia fear mental health professionals as well as other types of doctor. It may be difficult for you to visit a professional treatment provider.

Although it can temporarily worsen your anxiety, it is very important that you seek treatment. Over time, untreated iatrophobia can cause you to avoid needed medical care.   This can put your health and well-being at risk, and may ultimately result in difficult, complicated medical procedures for conditions that would have initially been easy to treat.

Personalized Treatment Options

Some mental health providers offer services via telephone or the internet. Although seeking in-person treatment is always preferable, these services can help you tame your phobia enough to face an in-person visit.

Search for a mental health provider that offers services in a low-key setting that is more homelike than clinical. Some professionals work out of their homes or rented spaces in office buildings, rather than hospitals or medical facilities. Some wear jeans and other casual clothes, and some provide soothing music, televisions, and other services designed for relaxation.

A good treatment provider will work at your pace. He will take the time to allow you to become comfortable with the office environment before moving on to treating the phobia. Many phobias are treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnosis, and group seminars. Look for a provider that offers the type of treatment with which you feel most comfortable.

Seeking treatment for iatrophobia is never easy. With a bit of advance research, however, you should be able to find a mental health services provider that makes you feel comfortable. Take someone with you to act as a support person if needed, and focus on developing trust with your provider before moving on to the actual phobia treatment.

How to overcome a fear of doctors

How to overcome a fear of doctors

The American Psychological Association officially recognizes only 100 phobias, but there are actually more than 500 of them in existence. Latrophobia just happens to be one of them. And this is not just some minor fear, we’re talking about. It’s so intense, in fact, that it disrupts the sufferer’s life.

Anyone who has ever tried to conquer the irrational fear like latrophobia knows just how difficult the effort can be. Indeed, the seeming impossibility of it all leads many a sufferer to give up, allowing their phobic tendencies to take over their lives.

The good news for these individuals is that latrophobia can be overcome if it is approached in the right way. Following are five effective strategies for putting this unwanted fear to rest once and for all so that those afflicted with it can reclaim their lives.

Strategy #1

Strategy #1 for Overcoming Latrophobia or the Fear of Doctors: Face your fear head on. – Realize that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Thousands of others face what you are facing every single day. You are not alone in this latrophobia battle. For this strategy to be most effective, it is best to gradually build up your exposure. Then spend some time in the presence of the very thing that fuels your latrophobia. Start slow and small and gradually work your way up. Practice and repetition are the keys to this strategy working.

Strategy #2

Strategy #2 for Overcoming Latrophobia or the Fear of Doctors: Don’t let panic or setbacks paralyze you. – Everyone has a bad day now and then. The important thing is not to let yours debilitate you from moving forward. Although such days may make it feel like you’re not making any progress, they’re deceitful. On such occasions, step back and assess how far you’ve come with your latrophobia. If you’re being honest with yourself, chances are you’ll see some real results. Eliminate all doubt and keep telling yourself, “If I’ve come this far, I can keep going. I will prevail.” And then go, go, go starting now, or at the very latest tomorrow.

Strategy #3

Strategy #3 for Overcoming Latrophobia or the Fear of Doctors: Keep a big picture perspective. – As Entrepreneur magazine points out, this strategy is all about understanding “what opportunities you have to lose.” You’re afraid of doctors but what is allowing your fear of doctors to have a stranglehold over you causing you to miss out on? Don’t live with regrets or put off embracing major changes until it’s too late.

Strategy #4

Strategy #4 for Overcoming Latrophobia or the Fear of Doctors: “Treat fear as a call to action.” – As an extension of strategy #3, Inc. magazine recommends reframing your notion of your fear of Doctors. Rather than thinking of it as a crippling aspect of your personality that you just have to keep living with, consider it a wake-up call—as a motivator to start claiming the life you’ve always wanted. “Write down a specific plan of the exact steps that you’ll take,” the publication recommends.

Strategy #5

Strategy #5 for Overcoming Latrophobia or the Fear of Doctors: “Rewire your brain.”Entrepreneur magazine offers this directive as “one of the surest ways to overcome your fears and develop the courage that is needed to get to where you want to go.” Easier said than done though. That’s where the assistance of a professional can come in handy. But one-on-one counseling sessions are so expensive, you’re telling yourself. Fortunately, there are affordable alternatives. Hypnotherapy has proven itself to be a very effective means of permanently rewiring the brain against latrophobia. And the good news is that thanks to today’s technology, hypnosis can be performed extremely cost-effectively from the comfort and convenience of your own home.

The Bottom Line

Hypnotism just happens to be an effective solution for all types of phobias. The key is understanding you are not the only person struggling and solutions are always at your finger tips.

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How to overcome a fear of doctors

Overcoming a fear of doctors, also called iatrophobia, is a particularly difficult endeavor because treating a debilitating phobia often involves visiting a doctor. If possible, the best way to overcome a fear of doctors is to visit a therapist, who can help come up with different strategies for combating this fear. When fear is so overwhelming that visiting a therapist is impossible, someone might try to become less sensitive to doctors by exposing his or herself to them in non-medical contexts. While it may not be possible to completely relieve anxiety about visiting doctors, most people can gain enough control of their emotions that they seek medical help when needed.

The best source of help when trying to overcome a fear of doctors is a therapist. While a therapist is a kind of doctor, mental health professionals are often located in more home-like settings, which can help defuse fears. Therapists often also know a number of sympathetic doctors, who may be particularly understanding about iatrophobia when the situation is explained to them in advanced. A therapist, then, can not only help a person overcome a fear of doctors, but can also find a doctor who will treat patients who cannot be cooperative due to fear.

Many people find that being exposed to doctors and becoming more familiar with the kinds of things doctors do can help overcome this fear. Reading books and watching documentaries about doctors can provide some relief, particularly when doctors are portrayed in a positive light. Alternatively, hanging out in coffee shops and bars near hospitals where doctors make up a large part of the clientele can provide real-world exposure to doctors in a safe environment. After plenty of desensitization, a trip to a real doctor can seem relatively benign.

One possibility for people suffering from this phobia is to use a doctor who makes house calls. This way, the patient is treated in a familiar and safe environment, relieving at least some of the stress. Without the trauma of being surrounded both by doctors and sick patients, many people with extreme fear can handle an encounter with a single doctor in street clothes.

It is important to overcome a fear of doctors because intense iatrophobia can lead to cases where a patient who is seriously ill or injured does not seek treatment until it is too late. Most people are more afraid of dying than of doctors, so most people do eventually seek treatment, but their symptoms may be serious at that point. Delayed treatment can be the difference between life and death, so it is important to overcome this fear before an actual incident occurs.

How to overcome a fear of doctors

Do you need to overcome your fear of the doctor? Discover tips and tricks that can work for all ages!

Latrophobia is the fear of going to the doctor, and statistics show that just 3% of the population experience such worries, it is still something that you should try to overcome. Unlike a fear of clowns, heights, or spiders, a doctor is a crucial part of life. You need to see the doctor when you’re sick. You cannot ignore the need to book an appointment as it’s your health at stake. But let’s say you experience a fear of going to the doctor. What can you do to overcome it?

How to overcome a fear of doctors

Bring a Friend

Moral support is a fantastic way for you to overcome your fear of the doctor, especially if they have a similar appointment at the same time. Even if they aren’t seeing the doctor, they can still drive you to your appointment, sit with you in the waiting room, and be there once you finish.

Their support is useful for easing your fears about the doctor and any procedures, and they can also distract you while you wait. Often, people are scared about going to the doctors because they get too much into their heads, but with someone there to take your mind off it, you won’t feel the same anxiety as you usually do.

Ask for Details on the Procedure

The fear of the unknown can contribute to being scared of the doctor, and you can overcome this fear by requisition details about the procedure.

Calling the doctor beforehand, whether it’s a simple checkup or Spinal injections for back pain, will help you understand and come to terms with what you can expect. By explaining the process step-by-step, the entire experience may seem less overwhelming, allowing you to feel more confident and less intimidated by visiting the doctor. You’ll know what will happen when it will happen and how it will happen.

Find the Root of Your Fear

Sometimes, you cannot be sure what caused your fear of the doctor, and rather than being any physical fears, it is a manifestation of something that happened a long time ago. Perhaps you had a bad experience in your childhood at a hospital, whether you had a shot that hurt too much or saw people suffering in their hospital beds.

Getting to the bottom of this by asking your family about previous experiences can help you better understand your fears. If your family can’t help, a therapist may be able to unlock the reason behind your worries. It may not even be the doctor, but rather the sterile environment of hospitals and waiting rooms, but you will never know unless you search for the answer.

Pick a Time That Works for You

Stress levels increase when you are anxious or scared, and if you usually go to the doctor after work or try to squeeze it into your day when you have too much to do, it’s only natural that you will feel even more stressed when attending an appointment.

This can have a severe effect on how you feel about going to the doctor. You could overcome these problems by booking appointments at a time that is more suitable for you.

Attending an appointment during your lunch break (on a full stomach) or mid-morning (so you don’t have to worry about traffic) will reduce your stress levels. You will also have the chance to mentally prepare, rather than rush to the waiting room without any time to yourself.

Get a New Doctor

In extreme cases, your fear of the doctor might come from the doctor. They might not have the best bedside manner, they may make you feel entirely uncomfortable, and you could feel like they don’t care about any problems you have.

If this sounds familiar, you can seek out another doctor for treatment. Ask around in your friendship group for recommendations and then see if they can take on new patients. These new doctors may be friendlier and have a health outlook that is closer to what you look for. While doctors should tell you the facts regarding your health, too much doom and gloom from your primary physician (even over insignificant issues) can affect your self-esteem and make you worry for nothing.

Overcoming Fears

Everyone has their fears, but rather than hide away from them, you can only grow as a person if you face them and challenge them. As doctor visits are so crucial to our everyday health, getting over your worries by using one of these methods will help you become healthy, happy, and stress-free.