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Healthcare Phobia, and 3 Ways to Overcome it

Healthcare Phobia, and 3 Ways to Overcome it

Keeping in check with proper healthcare is vital to long lasting good health. Yet fear and phobia of healthcare is quite common among many people. Whether it’s a yearly routine check-up with your general practitioner, a regular dental check-up, or going in for an examination on any abnormal symptoms that have just been discovered, it’s important to overcome this phobia and make it a point to visit your doctor to prevent a long-term future illness.

Unfortunately, healthcare phobia, or the correct medical term ‘Tomophobia’, is a common anxiety disorder, and sufferers of this disorder fear seeking much needed medical attention. This fear will delay treatment of perhaps a serious or life threatening condition. As a result, their condition could worsen.

This delay in treatment will increase stress and in turn further increase their symptoms resulting in a negative cycle. Studies have shown that stress releases a hormone called cortisol, and with prolonged stress this increase of cortisol will suppress the production of certain cells called Lymphatic-t cells, and NK cells which fight against diseases such as cancer, and will weaken your immune system.

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According to ‘The Psychology of Health and Healthcare’, (Poole, Matheson, Cox, 2012) there are various levels of delay between acknowledging that something is medically wrong and actually seeking medical attention.

The ‘appraisal delay‘ occurs in the time it takes to realize what they are experiencing is a symptom.  The ‘illness delay‘ is the time they take to acknowledge they are ill and deciding to seek medical heathcare. The ‘behavioural delay‘ is the time it takes to actually make the call to their doctor’s office, and the ‘medical delay‘ is the time period the patient must wait for their first appointment.

Studies have found those suffering from personal problems, those who believe they cannot be cured, and those who have lived with the symptom for a long period of time, have the highest rate of delay in seeking required care. While noting this, it’s also very important not to ignore those long-term symptoms…. as they need to be examined, especially if it’s been long-term.

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In fact, many people will seek medical advice on their newer symptoms but ignore older ones due to the fact that they have had them for so long. Does that by chance sound familiar?

Another obstacle preventing patients from treatment is ‘Adherence to Medical Advice‘. For example, they’ve visited their medical practitioner, but for various reasons did not follow through with the medical advice given, or they have altered that advice to fit in with their own plans or schedule. Not following medical advice is quite common and another obstacle in prevention treatment.

Most of the time, these delays are a result of Tomophobia, and this phobia has recently been acknowledged as a disorder. The following forms of treatment are now available.

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1. Hypnosis and Systematic Desensitization

This is used to treat dental phobia, and works well in alleviating fear of the unknown. The patient will imagine the scenario through this systematic desensitization, and thus have a greater comfort level going into their appointment. This form of hypnosis can be successful in teaching the patient to transport themselves to a more meditative state during the procedure.

2. Self Injection Anxiety Therapy (SIAS)

Blood-Injection-Injury Phobia‘ is a classified psychological disorder that includes intense fear of blood, injury, needle injection and invasive medical procedures. SIAS has been found to be very successful in relieving some of the anxiety with relaxation techniques during an easy introduction to the tip of a needle.

3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This form of therapy helps with these phobias as it focuses on a new and more appropriate thought process. The patients are asked to question their own maladaptive thinking and to challenge their negative thoughts, replacing them with new and more productive thoughts. This can be beneficial in the long-term because once the new thought process takes over and replaces the old one, it usually lasts.

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Seeking medical attention when you first discover a new symptom and following the exact instructions of your healthcare provider will benefit your health greatly in the prevention of a possible illness. If you can relate to any of the examples in this article then these treatments could help you improve your own personal healthcare routine, and in turn could improve your lifestyle and even possibly extend life longevity!

Featured photo credit: Brogan & Partners via flickr.com

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Kathleen Lum

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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