Phobias that endanger your health

Thursday, October 24th, 2019 07:51 |

Many people have fears of heights, swimming or darkness. There are others who have extreme fears that may make them freak out and, unfortunately, keep them from getting the medical care they need to stay healthy. Such people experience a range of symptoms—from dizziness to nausea, breathlessness or full-fledged panic. Studies show more women than men tend to have phobias. Here are common health trepidations, writes BETTY MUINDI

Fear of medics

The fear of doctors, known as iatrophobia, is often strong enough to provoke “white coat syndrome”, in which normally healthy blood pressure soars in the presence of a medical professional. Experts estimate that 15 to 30 per cent of people whose blood pressure appears high in a medical setting experience this syndrome. 

Fear of trauma

People who have a fear of falling or injuring themselves may take drastic steps to prevent these experiences, such as curtailing their social life, which could increase feelings of isolation and depression. Fear of injury is also called traumatophobia. This fear can be related to dystychiphobia, the excessive fear of having an accident. This phobia is often seen in a person who has been in a serious or near-fatal accident in the past. In some cases, losing someone close as a result of an accident can trigger the phobia. This fear encompasses all forms of physical accidents, including those that occur in the home, the workplace, public spaces, and roadways. People with dystychiphobia generally worry about causing injury both to themselves and to other people.

Fear of surgery and invasive surgical procedures

Also known as tomophobia, people may develop this fear after a negative experience with surgery, or they may have anxiety about anesthesia or being harmed during an invasive procedure.

Fear of dental procedures

About two to four per cent of people struggle with fears associated with visiting the dentist and dental procedures also known as dentophobia,  including office sounds and smells and pain associated with needles and dental work.

Fear of needles

Trypanophobia is an extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. Children are, especially afraid of needles because they are unused to the sensation of their skin being pricked by something sharp. By the time many people reach adulthood, they can tolerate needles much more easily. But for some, a fear of needles stays with them into adulthood. Sometimes this fear can be extremely intense. Just the thought of needles may lead to faintness or cause an irregular heartbeat or blood pressure.

Fear of hospitals

Nosocomephobia is the extreme fear of hospitals. Although hospitals provide care to help people recover from health problems, sometimes patients fear hospital stays because they know many people die while in hospital. It is a fairly common phobia and many people including former US President Richard Nixon are known to suffer from it. Nixon’s remark that “If I go to a hospital, I’m fairly sure I won’t come out of it alive” is quite well known. Some people avoid visiting friends or family in the hospital due to concerns of getting germs that could lead to serious illness.

Fear of diseases

People with this phobia avoid seeking medical care because they are concerned about being diagnosed with a disease. Nosophobia is the irrational fear of having a specific disease. The origins of the word nosophobia come from ‘nosos’ and phobos, which mean disease and fear in Greek. Risk factors include exposure to high levels of media coverage about disease and the risks of contracting diseases, having suffered traumatic health problems in the past and repeated exposure to people with serious illnesses.

Fear of childbirth or pregnancy

Women may develop this phobia called tocophobia while pregnant, after delivering a baby or hearing traumatic birth experiences. This fear may lead women to avoid becoming pregnant, even though they want to have children or to opt for a caesarean section in order to avoid vaginal birth. 

Fear of raw blood 

Haemophobia and other blood-injection-injury phobias frequently cause a drop in blood pressure and heart rate. The sudden drop can lead to fainting, a relatively common response to the sight of blood. Anticipatory anxiety, in which you may experience a racing heart, shaking, and gastrointestinal distress, is common in the hours and days before an upcoming encounter with blood. Bleeding is an indication that something is wrong with the body, and the sight of one’s own blood can be enough to trigger health anxiety.

Fear of pain

Algophobia is the fear of painful experiences. Though pain is never pleasant for anyone and usually people try to avoid anything that could lead to it, this is irrational fear that takes the avoidance too far. Algophobia can be both learned and innate. Some people are born more sensitive than others and their threshold for pain can be incredibly low. This makes every day situations that normal people wouldn’t notice at all extremely painful for someone with hypersensitivity. A person with this phobia is terrified to experience any form of perceived pain. 

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