Do you fear hospitals, doctors, and/or medical procedures?
Here’s what one of our Thrive with Autism/Aspergers community members said one day:
“Hi guys. I have to get surgery Tuesday for my foot (running injury) and I’m anxious. Any tips? I hate blood draws and IVs. Mostly I just don’t know how surgery really works, like how do they control the bleeding so I don’t bleed out? I’ve never had surgery just many endoscopies.”
Everybody needs to know about medical phobias, or treatment anxiety, because lack of knowledge fans the flames of anxiety.
What Is Treatment Anxiety?
Guess what? You’re not alone if you have fears of hospitals, medicine, or surgery/surgical procedures.
Fear of medical procedures falls under a broader category of fears, called “Blood, Injection, and Injury Phobias".
Formally, medical fear is defined (by Steward and Steward, see Further reading) as “any experience that involves medical personnel or procedures involved in the process of evaluating or modifying health status in traditional health care settings”.
Why Do People Have Medically Related Treatment Anxiety?
Here’s a number of reasons I uncovered from my reading:
feeling out of control.
genetics – according to researchers, phobias tend to run in families.
a person may have experienced a past traumatic event at a hospital, whether a death of a loved one, or a diagnosis if a fatal disease.
if a person struggles with sensory difficulties, being touched or dealing with fluorescents nights, then hospitals or clinics may make them uncomfortable.
What Can You Do To Reduce Treatment Anxiety?
Suggestions from My Thrive with Aspergers/Autism Group Members
Trust the doctor/dentist/medical professional
[Remember] they’re pros at what they do. I’d be nervous as well, but I know the people doing surgery these days have so much training and the methods are getting cleaner and more streamlined. A few years ago my mom had a lung transplant. I was so nervous for her. The surgeon came out to meet with me just before the surgery to talk about the procedure. She was so kind, and she not only answered all of my questions, she showed me a lot of compassion. I bet you could request a meeting for yourself.
Educate The Professionals
Tell them you’re autistic. Explain that you’re anxious and that you’d like to have each step explained to you. If you’ll be staying longer than just for an outpatient procedure, bring earplugs and an eye-mask so you can control sensory input.
[My comments: I have found that information geared toward kids is just as good, if not better, for adults. I like information broken down to ‘child’ level, because I find that complex information is so much more easily understood this way]
Overcoming Medical Phobias
Knowledge isn’t always power, but knowing the “why’s” behind medical phobias may help you start feeling less anxious about them.
Anything that’s faced becomes a little less scary each time. By reading about medical phobias your treatment anxiety will start to go down.
Some facts and features of treatment anxiety, or medical phobia:
extreme fear or panic, including a range of physical symptoms such as a racing or pounding heart, tight muscles, rapid breathing, trembling, sweating, breathlessness, and feeling fidgety
fainting (especially if you have blood and needle phobias)
if you are among the 25 to 50% of those who don’t faint, you may struggle with fearing and avoiding doctors, dentists, blood and/or needles.
if you deal with fear of needles and/or blood, there is also evidence you may experience high levels o of disgust
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