What Everyone Should Know About Treatment Anxiety

Why You Need To Know About Medical Phobia

treatment anxiety

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.

There’s even a name for these fears.

Nosocomephobia is the name of the phobia relating to the fear of hospitals. Tomophobia is a fear of surgery or surgical operations. Pharmacophobia is a fear of medicine.  source – 5 Ways to Cure Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine

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”.[1]  

(source: Wikipedia)

Other medically related phobias include.

  • Fear of surgery
  • Fear of Dental Work
  • Fear of Doctors/Fear of Needles

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.

I found this, but it may be geared more toward kids.

[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

Educate Yourself

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

The advice that follows comes from this free book that I found, called Overcoming Medical Phobias: How to Conquer Fear of Blood, Needles, Doctors, and Dentists, by Martin M. Anthony, PhD, and Mark A. Waitling, MD.

Here’s a link to a free pdf version

Or you can click on the image below to order to book for your personal library.


In my next blog post, I’ll go into more details about other strategies you can use to overcome medical phobias, or treatment anxiety.

Action Step:

  1.  Read the article, 5 Ways to Cure Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine
  2. Read this Wikipedia overview about fear of medical procedures.
  3. Go deep!  Read the free copy of Overcoming Medical Phobias.

Enjoy this introduction to treatment anxiety, and look for my next blog post on strategies for overcoming medical phobias.

Copyright: dolgachov / 123RF Stock Photo

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

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