Afraid of the Doctor? Don’t Let Fear Come Between You and Your Health
Even if you do not suffer from latrophobia (the fear of doctors), you are not alone if you dread the thought of going to see your physician. It is estimated that about 20 percent of the population suffers from what is referred to as “white coat syndrome,” in which a person’s blood pressure shoots up when in the presence of a healthcare practitioner. But if the fear of doctors is getting in the way of you receiving proper medical care, you should do something about it for the sake of your health. And acknowledging your fear is the first step to getting beyond it.
There are many valid reasons why people do not like doctors and hospitals, including the association of these places with pain and illness. Many people are embarrassed to discuss medical issues or fear being given a lecture about their unhealthy behaviors. Or maybe they do not like being touched or dread the possibility of a painful procedure. Even when people are feeling healthy, going in for a preventative exam can still trigger uneasiness. They might wonder, “What if the exam reveals problems I didn’t know I have?” Sometimes they’d actually rather not find out. However, not knowing (or finding out about health issues too late) presents its own risks. Truth is, knowledge is power. And ignorance can be dangerous. Despite these facts, some people avoid interacting with a healthcare provider.
Sometimes there’s an issue of mistrust that’s made worse by the absence of personal familiarity. Stories of medical errors are always hitting the news, and people often do not know which doctor they will be seeing in today’s managed healthcare scenario. For most people, gone are the days when they visited the same family doctor from childhood through older age. Doctors working in larger “corporate care” environments do not have time to build long, trusting relationships with their patients any more.
The fear of needles is another common problem. Dr. James G. Hamilton published a study in the Journal of Family Practice on this subject, and he estimates that about 10% of the population has a needle phobia. The fear of needles is “an important public health issue,” according to Dr. Mark Dursztman, from New York’s Presbyterian Hospital. He explains, “Blood tests are one of the most important diagnostic tools modern medicine has at its disposal.” So getting over this fear is important to ensure the maintenance of good health.
If you are among those with a fear of doctors, you can use some of the following tips that experts have devised to help people deal with it:
Identify what it is you are afraid of – Often, people just have a general uneasy feeling that they can’t pinpoint. Identifying the source of your anxiety can help you to manage the fear far better than trying to battle an unknown opponent, and you can then deal with your fears more rationally.
Look for another doctor – Sometimes we are just not comfortable with our doctor. Look for someone you can connect with, who you feel comfortable talking to about problems and who you feel listens to and understands you.
Ask about what you might experience – Get the doctor or nurse to explain what the pain may be like (a needle prick is like a mosquito bite, for instance), and how long it can be expected to last. It will help you to be more mentally and emotionally prepared than going in for a visit and not knowing what level of discomfort to expect.
Take someone with you – It often helps to have a family member or friend with you when you visit the doctor or have a procedure done. They can be there to relieve your anxiety and provide emotional support when it’s needed.
Your doctor is there to help ensure that you are as healthy as you can be, and prevention is always the best medicine. So make the very best use of your visits with the doctor! Use these tips to help get past your fears so that you can enjoy a long and healthy life, free from illness.