Monday, February 19, 2007

Iatrophobia

I like to think of myself as a practical person. I'm reasonable, rational. I put money in my 401k. I don't drink milk past its expiration date. I defragment my hard drive on a regular basis. Unfortunately there is one area in my life where the irrational wins and beats the practical side down and hides it in the tips of my toes. I absolutely can not bring myself to go to the Doctor. The mere thought of calling and making an appointment causes uncontrollable shaking and anxiety. Lately I've been having some potentially serious symptoms and the practical part of me knows it's time to make the call, yet I can't bring myself to do it. I think/hope that what I'm experiencing is related to my (15 year) delay in having my wisdom teeth removed, but I can't be sure and I know it's time to take action. I've searched online for treatments or possible solutions for this phobia, but they all of course involve actually going to the doctor, so it's a vicious cycle. I'm scared and I don't know what to do.

I wish the practical part of me could win this battle. I wish I was normal and could make an appointment and walk in like a normal person, minus the shaking and palpitations. I wish I had a support system out here, but I don't. Like all the other battles in my life I have to fight it alone and I'm afraid it's one I'm going to lose.

24 comments:

Louise said...

Kai, I completely feel for you. I am iatrophobic too - rather than seeing doctors as agents of help, I see them as purveyors of disaster. And like you, I am completely practical in all other parts of my life, but this seems insurmountable. I am a university-educated mother of five (my pregnancies were interesting given that they necessitated doctor visits, I can tell you) and, when faced with doctors and their battery of blood-tests etc, I become like a child of about five, certain that there's monsters in the cupboard. Isn't it perfectly remarkable that there are other people out there who seem to LOVE going to the doctor and having some new ailment diagnosed?

It must be tough for you to have no support system, mate - if I lived in New York instead of Australia, I'd offer to go with you and shout you a couple of beers later for your courage. I guess I have a couple of people I could tell, and ask to go with me, but truth top tell, I'm too scared that they'll think I'm an idiot, and worse, boss me into going to the doctor. I'm sure you know what I mean.

FYI: MY iatrophobia extended to the dentist, and I had a mouth full of disgusting teeth including lumps on my gums which I was sure were some sort of oral cancer. They weren't. It helped that the dentist was a really nice man; I was sobbing and shaking when I got there (I have another friend who puked all over her dentist she was so scared). By the time he'd pulled my teeth out and fitted me with dentures, I trusted him.

Could you start by sucking your courage up and finding a doctor who isn't a superior cold fish, whom you think you could open up to about the fear, before you describe your symptoms?

I know that's a hell of a lot easier said than done - just know that there's somebody out here thinking of you. If I can support you in some way, can you post here and I'll send you my email addy?
That said, I rather hope that by the time of my posting this to you, you somehow found support and have had the medical issue addressed and are okay.

Take care, sister.

Louise x

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog and thought, this describes me to a tee!!! I have always been a worry wart, but the fear of doctors has been so overwhelming, that I tend to stay away at all costs. I've never had anything wrong with that I couldn't deal with, just minor little fixable things, but since I started through menopause I'm envisioning all sorts of doom and gloom that I can't seem to get under control. I try to tell myself that most of what I'm feeling is probably just age, but then I fret so much about everything physical that I nerve myself into a semi-panic attack. My hub says "honey, just go to the doc and get checked-out". I said to him "yeah right, and have him uncover some dreaded disease?" I can totally sympathize with you and know how hard it is not have someone that you can really talk to about this. Everyone around me seems to be so normal about going to the doc, and frankly, I fall apart at the thought of it. At work today, on the spur of the moment, I called and made an appointment for a check up for Wednesday. I will have myself so worked up by then, I know my blood pressure will be through the roof. Just wanted to let you know that I feel for you and know what you are going through.

Julie

caniegia25 said...

yes i have the same thing as u....
Iatrophobia???? is that what they call it??

Anonymous said...

Oh my Dear God, I thought I was alone. I'm scared! oI'm scared to friggin death of a doctor. I always have been. I haven't been in 20 years and I so need to go, I have medical problems that I hide and keep secret but, my secret is catching up with me... I feel like the day I go to the doctor is the day I go to my beheading! I really feel this way. I'm ashamed to tell anyone cause some act pure foolish about a thing like this. They talk about how crazy and stupid you must be and how they would have went at the first signs of trouble. But not me! First of all, I'm ashamed to tell anyone, then if I do, I gotta hear about it... and God forbid calling to make an appointment, you talk about full blown panic attack... I would be physically sick from throwing up ~ a bad case of nerves... Only to face that dreadful day of that no compassionate doctor telling me that I am going to die...
And like the rest of you, I'm self employed and educated...
I would love to find just one other person just like me...
I'm scared of facing this alone...

Anonymous said...

I too am Iatrophobic but rational in all other aspects of my life. I am a type 2 diabetic and my wife drags me to a once yearly checkup so they can check my medications aren't causing damage etc. For weeks, if not months, before the visit I obsess about them and find it hard to concentrate on my daily activities.

The odd thing is, after doing a lot of thinking about it. I realized I'm not particularly afraid of illness, bad news, or even death. Exactly what it is that terrifies me seems instead to be a complicated mix of other things...

I think I feel a fear of judgement - disspointment or lecturing on the behalf of the doctor that I haven't been looking after myself correctly. Also, there's definitely a personal space issue involved - I hate being poked and prodded and I can't even enjoy a massage from my wife. I know there's something that upsets me about the environment itself - the sterility and that background smell (you know the one), but i can't figure out exactly why.

Regardless, coming to see some of the different components of my phobia does seem to be helping me a little - not curing me, but definitely helping. I've taken up Vipassana meditation to help with my mental "self examinations" so that I can further sleuth down the components of this phobia. I would strongly suggest other Iatrophobes do the same. This is the one phobia that CAN kill you... and it's really imperative to know thine enemy.

Anonymous said...

I have had a fear of pain and doctors since a child and being a rational person like the rest of you I decided once I was older I should sort it out. It took three decades and actually working in a hospital to control but not beat this thing, only to go into hospital for surgery and for it to go wrong. So now I'm worse than ever. I complained to the hospital and they apologised! however, my response was that if I had chest pain I would call a mortician rather than a doctor. I maintain this stance even though I am very ill. Unfortunaltely I have no one to support me and this means that I am waiting to die. I am in so much pain that if it doesn't happen soon I shall do it myself. Good luck to the rest of you. If you can get help you should do so, as I wouldn't wish my position on anyone.

Anonymous said...

I also have Iatrophobia in some ways its mild and some ways it severe. It's Mild in the way that dentists dont bug me or If I had a broken leg I would go to the emergency room and I'm ok with someone taking my blood or taking a pee in a cup but when it comes to showing my naked body for female exams I just can't do it. I am now 32, I thought as I got older this fear would go away or that I would eventually have something wrong with me that was so bad I would force myself to go, But now every illness I have or may not have I research it and try to put out the answers of what it may or may not be instead of going. I have avoided having children Just so I would never have to go to the doctor not because I don't like kids. I know I need to get over this fear cause If I do want kids I don't have a big window of time left. This is a horrible fear and I feel for and suffer with all of you.

MarnieColette said...

I have this fear. I made an appointment for the Doctors and get almost to the door and never show. I have an appointment for Monday, I am already panicky and I have to keep telling myself I need to go. I FEAR having my blood pressure taken - when I was a teen I took it at a pharmacy --- lets just say there was an incident and the fire department was called. I also hate needles.

I can still remember the conversation my mom and her family had when my grandpa died. It was the doctors fault - they shouldn't have allowed him to have the surgery.

Recently my father died unexpectedly after having surgery and the old feelings popped up again.

I am also paranoid about everything of late - fear of death mostly. I am hoping that perhaps keeping my appointment (fingers crossed)- they can point me in the right direction for help.

Ironically the dentist doesn't bother me so much.

Anonymous said...

I also suffer from this "irrational" fear. However, several incidents over the years (including two assaults) led to this and they cannot be undone. No amount of therapy can make up for the betrayal of trust. What ever happened to that "first, do no harm" portion of the medical oath they take? I have yet to find that one compassionate health "professional" that I might trust enough to allow an exam. I, too, am suffering as I type this because I can't bring myself to go through the tests the symptoms would necessitate. I am not so worried about the diagnosis...I don't want the tests.

Teri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I know this blog and posts were written some time ago but I had to just say that I am a member of this paralyzing club. It's interesting to find others that feel as I do even though it doesn't give me anymore strength to make that doctors appointment, but it is somewhat consoling. Good luck to you all and if anyone finds an answer, please share. I'm very close to investigating hypnosis....anyone try that yet?

Nekura said...

This. I got interstitial cystitis which meant either I was going to kill myself or a doctor was going to help.

Thankfully my friends knew a wonderful doctor. I was forced into a pelvic exam at age 5 and had poking done constantly to my eyes since I had a lazy so now I'm afraid of anything coming near my eyes.

Pelvic exams leave me a shaking mess. There really needs to be more awareness.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, of you for sharing your stories. I thought I was both alone and "crazy" in my fear of going to doctors. I am not glad that so many people share my fear, but your courage in sharing has proven to me that a lot of very intelligent, articulate and otherwise rational people have the same fear that I do.

My Mom is a nurse and I don't think she fully understands the paralyzing effect of my fear. Telling me all the bad things that can happen if I don't go doesn't really help. That approach assumes that I'm rational on this matter, which is clearly not the case. It also totally freaks me out...I have an appointment with my ob/gyn this afternoon and all I can think of is breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer plus my almost-certain spike in blood pressure. ( I had to go lie down several times before I got up the nerve to make the appointment.) I have an appointment with my thyroid doc on Monday and I stressed about it all through my anniversary weekend.

What I'm going to do is, when they give me the stack of forms to fill out, I will write "I have a full-blown doctor phobia" in the space where you write your concerns. I'm going to put that form on top, just in case my doc has never noticed or has forgotten.
I think, as someone said, doctors need to be aware of this condition. Hey, the fewer people they freak out, the more patients and the more revenue they'll have.

The person with the chest pains who feels helpless and talking about killing him or her self...please don't give up. You are valuable and deserve appropriate and compassionate care .

Sorry this has been kind of long but it's really calmed me down to get this out.
Thanks for sharing and listening.
By the way, hypnosis helped me a little...at least now I know my fear is not the truth.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I know this was posted 6 years ago, but the stories really help me. I've always felt alone with my phobia.

I never minded going to the doctor until I was 16 and experiencing some health problems. What should have just been one exam, turned into a year and a half of endless testing, misdiagnoses, and misery. Every time I go to the doctor, I hyperventilate, cry, shake, and sometimes yell at the doctor.

Last night my mom mentioned that I haven't been to the doctor in a while and she is going to make me an appointment. I instantly starting crying and shaking at the thought of it. It's so nice knowing I am not the only person out there who is terrified of going to the doctor.

Anonymous said...

I have asthma and iatrophobia, I avoid doctors at all costs and buy drugs on the internet. My asthma is not well controlled as a result and I've had pneumonia three times.

My iatrophobia is very specific, only GPs, I'm absolutely fine in hospitals with hospital doctors. This is because my iatrophobia relates to an entry on my medical records that I don't want anyone to see. I want, and have tried to have the entry removed but have been told this is impossible. The entry is nearly ten years old and my Iatrophobia and avoidance of doctors dates from then.

My iatrophobia could be cured with the stroke of a pen.

Like everyone else, every other aspect of my life is normal and happy.

I'm in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Thank god I'm not alone! I actually went to therapy for this, but we didn't get very far. Mindfulness helps a little, some other meditation tricks... But it's gotten worse with bad experiences in the last few years. Now I'm 19 weeks pregnant and still can't overcome it. The call today took 3weeks to nerve up to and since they'll never agree to meet me pre-exam, I just said "thank you for your time and hung up. Still no appointment and a 4 hour anxiety attack and counting. I'm just glad I'm not alone in this.

Anonymous said...

I too am terrified of doctors! Im always afraid they will find something wrong with me that is life=threatening! I lost my mom to cancer and all her doctors were beaters of bad news. I have to get a physical for my husband's work insurance before the end of the month and it includes bloodwork which has me planning my own funeral in my mind everyday until I get it over with!

Ruchika Prerna said...

Hi All,

I welcome myself to the club.
I am 28 and married for 4 years. we are planing to start a family but my iatrophobia is playing its role. I fear the blood tests required during pregnancy. I am not pregnant yet still these thoughts always keep me double minded, if I can have kids or not.
I am also faced with some infertility issues that require complete blood analysis. I am damn scared.
Usually I am ok but at times this phobia takes control and I cant think anything in right perspective. I wish i shout on people around me. I get crazy..I really want a baby but I am scared. Looking for a friendly doctor, researched for ways I can avoid blood tests during pregnancy...done everything but still thought of ER cases gives me shivers...I can think to any level about complications. Surely need some help..from where don't know.

dd said...

I have rational fear of doctors.
I am not afraid of death or illness or disease or blood tests or other tests.
I fear doctors because I believe most of them to be incompetents who bribed their way through medical school. I fear to place the responsibility of my body and mind in the hands of incompetents. I fear that they will kill me or incapacitate me.
I also have this rational fear of chemical medicines. Many are later proven to be too toxic and banned from sale. Who knows if the drugs currently on market are going to be banned in the future.
I have exercised every day for the past twenty years to avoid doctors.
I also eat an apple a day to keep the doctors away.

Now is a 'RATIONAL' fear of doctors iatrophobic or not?

Grace said...

It is just so good to hear from people with the phobia I have. I have not had a check up in a long time. My son's birthday gift request ia for me to have physical. I told him I cannot give him that gift and I felt so bad!

Unknown said...

I just wanted to say that for everyone that suffers with this you are not alone, Clearly. I'm 18 weeks pregnant at 32 years old and have suffered from Iatrophobia as well as Hypochondriasis for as long as I can remember. I managed to go to the doctor 3 weeks ago which was just an ultrasound to see the baby. Today however I had another appointment at 10:30am sat there for 40 mins in the waiting room until I couldn't handle it any longer. I walked out. My mother called the office stating I will not be returning because of my fear. I cried for 3 hours and nothing could calm me down. I have been in therapy for these issues and as far as I've gotten is that one appointment. I've been called a selfish B#$$%h because I cannot make myself get past these fears. Therapy has helped but not enough. I wish you all good luck and positive vibes because I am too going through the same thing

Ashleigh Moore said...

I agree with you completely on this. I've seen people I love become addicted to prescription drugs that the doctors get money and vacations for. But I do fear diseses as well as doctors. I veiw them as evil and maniacal control freaks

Ashleigh Moore said...

I'm actually in the same boat as you. I did go to the doctor once at 15 weeks and had another today which ended in me walking out and basically firing the doctor. I really hope and pray that you find a doctor that will work with you. I'm on the hunt again. I'm truly thankful for my Mom because she makes my appointments because I cannot do it myself. Cognitive therapy has helped me a bit as long as I don't have time to sit and think about what is going to take place or the doctor touching me I seem to do pretty well because of therapy. There are limits though and a 40 min wait is past that limit

Anonymous said...

Hi, what you described is exactly me, I know i have medical issues and dental issues, I been really good at hiding, I was in denial since 2003 has I have had a lump in the roof of my mouth, they are other symptoms. I been out out the denial part for the past four years and not in extreme fear. I wish we could talk further.