Fear Of Hospitals

Fear Of Hospitals

“Pulling yourself together isn’t enough”

Anyone who thinks of doctors and develops panic and delays appointments despite complaints probably suffers from an iatrophobia. It is important for those affected to face the fear.

The drill screams, spit accumulates in the mouth, but swallowing is impossible. Many people are familiar with the panic that is rising in the body at this moment – especially during a visit to the dentist. For some, however, the sight of a medical center is nothing short of horror. Iatrophobia is the technical term for the pathological fear of going to the doctor. The term derives from the Greek Iatros, doctor.

“There are estimates that up to two million people in Germany are affected by fears of doctors or treatments,” says Arno Deister. “However, the disease is not clearly defined,” explains the president of the German Society of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics and Neurology (DGPPN). Some are reluctant to go to the doctor. Others, however, hesitate to visit a doctor even if they have very serious illnesses – until it is too late.

How do you know if you are afraid or have a serious problem? “A certain uneasiness or tummy rumbling is completely normal, but sweating or a racing heart are signs of serious panic,” explains Markus Beier, Deputy Chairman of the Bavarian General Practitioners’ Association.

Fear of loss of control

Patients are not necessarily afraid of a particularly bad diagnosis, but of visiting a doctor. “This is often accompanied by a fear of losing control,” explains Christa Roth-Sackenheim, Chairwoman of the Professional Association for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. “Those affected believe that they can no longer control their bodies, are worried that they will fall over, get into their pants or say something stupid.

Some doctors are aware of this problem and try to counteract it: “We have already been able to reduce the fears of some patients in our practice,” says Beier. He takes his time and tries to make patients understand that they can intervene at any time. “Nothing should happen against their will.” Anyone who is afraid of injections or blood, for example, is treated particularly sensitively and gets a note in the file.

As a rule, phobias are based on actual experience, says Deister. “But that doesn’t have to be a single traumatic experience.” There can also be a cause in childhood. The problem is that the longer the visit is delayed for fear of the doctor, the greater the health problems. So the procedure or treatment then turns out to be all the worse, which in turn confirms and reinforces the fear. A vicious circle.

The good news is: As a rule, the doctor’s phobia can be solved with behavioural therapy. Therapist and patient analyse the processes in slow motion. The patient is then gently confronted with his or her fear. “The patient should understand that the fear disappears again and again,” explains Roth-Sackenheim. Non-medical therapists could also accompany such a therapy, says Deister. “If the phobia refers to therapists of any kind, it will of course be difficult.

Treatment under hypnosis

Dentists in particular now offer anxiety patients treatment under anaesthesia or hypnosis, and relaxation techniques or distractions such as music or films can also help. Patients who need surgery should not hide the fact that they are afraid. “I recommend that you talk to your doctor about your own fears,” says Michael Volland, head of the “Angstfreies Krankenhaus” working group at Berlin’s Waldfriede Hospital.

Who does not dare to meet the fear, should get support from good friends or relatives, says Volland. “A trusted person can help narrow down the problems.” The environment must know that this disease is not something you can just leave alone.

“Pulling yourself together isn’t enough, that’s not good advice,” says Deister. Friends or relatives may address their observations, recommends Roth-Sackenheim, but without a rating. “It is not easy to find out about such fear, but it is not something that cannot be treated well.

Markus Beier experiences again and again that relatives are the connecting link to the anxious patients. “Some also ask their relatives to drive them to us in order to get to know us, then the first step is already done. So perhaps the next visit to the doctor will no longer be a nightmare.

Stephen S. Davidson