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Healthcare Phobia, and 3 Ways to Overcome it

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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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