How do I Overcome a Fear of Doctors?

Tara Barnett

Overcoming a fear of doctors, also called iatrophobia, is a particularly difficult endeavor because treating a debilitating phobia often involves visiting a doctor. If possible, the best way to overcome a fear of doctors is to visit a therapist, who can help come up with different strategies for combating this fear. When fear is so overwhelming that visiting a therapist is impossible, someone might try to become less sensitive to doctors by exposing his or herself to them in non-medical contexts. While it may not be possible to completely relieve anxiety about visiting doctors, most people can gain enough control of their emotions that they seek medical help when needed.

Being exposed to doctors can help a person overcome their fear of doctors.
Being exposed to doctors can help a person overcome their fear of doctors.

The best source of help when trying to overcome a fear of doctors is a therapist. While a therapist is a kind of doctor, mental health professionals are often located in more home-like settings, which can help defuse fears. Therapists often also know a number of sympathetic doctors, who may be particularly understanding about iatrophobia when the situation is explained to them in advanced. A therapist, then, can not only help a person overcome a fear of doctors, but can also find a doctor who will treat patients who cannot be cooperative due to fear.

It's important to overcome a fear of doctors enough to seek medical care when necessary.
It's important to overcome a fear of doctors enough to seek medical care when necessary.

Many people find that being exposed to doctors and becoming more familiar with the kinds of things doctors do can help overcome this fear. Reading books and watching documentaries about doctors can provide some relief, particularly when doctors are portrayed in a positive light. Alternatively, hanging out in coffee shops and bars near hospitals where doctors make up a large part of the clientele can provide real-world exposure to doctors in a safe environment. After plenty of desensitization, a trip to a real doctor can seem relatively benign.

One possibility for people suffering from this phobia is to use a doctor who makes house calls. This way, the patient is treated in a familiar and safe environment, relieving at least some of the stress. Without the trauma of being surrounded both by doctors and sick patients, many people with extreme fear can handle an encounter with a single doctor in street clothes.

It is important to overcome a fear of doctors because intense iatrophobia can lead to cases where a patient who is seriously ill or injured does not seek treatment until it is too late. Most people are more afraid of dying than of doctors, so most people do eventually seek treatment, but their symptoms may be serious at that point. Delayed treatment can be the difference between life and death, so it is important to overcome this fear before an actual incident occurs.

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Discussion Comments


These are all good tips. I'd say seeing a therapist would be a vital part of treatment. I've also heard of doing visualization exercises and doing things like driving by the office several days before the appointment to familiarize oneself with the place. Sometimes, just seeing the doctor practices in an unassuming office building helps. It takes away some of the fear of the unknown.

People may also visualize themselves parking, going into the office, sitting, reading a magazine, going to the exam room, meeting the doctor and having a good appointment. These visualizations can all help a person.

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