How to Deal with Fear of Doctors

Article | July 2018

How to Deal with 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.

This information is general health information and not medical advice or services. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and health care recommendations.