Iatrophobia: Fear of Doctors- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The world would just be unimaginable without the doctors who save thousands of lives every day. While their works and contributions are acknowledged by many people, there is another group who’d actually dread these life saviors in white coat. Such kind of irrelevant and intense fear of doctors is known as iatrophobia.

The word Iatrophobia has been derived from Greek word “Iatros” meaning healer. Iatrophobia is signified by persistent, extreme and unexplainable dread of visiting and meeting doctors. An iatrophobic person tends to avoid all kinds of appointments with doctors, and often delays any medical check-ups. The fear is also closely related with another anxiety known as “white coat hypertension” in which the person panics upon encountering a real doctor, and even similar looking people in white coats. This phobia can take a serious form if the person starts avoiding any needed medical routines.

fear of doctors

What Causes Iatrophobia?

Different cause factors which can develop iatrophobia in people are:

Related Distressful Event

Phobic condition is majorly associated with some kind of trauma that the person faced previously. The fear of doctors can be resultant of a painful experience of tough medical check-ups during childhood, or encounter with frightening or rude doctors previously. The distress from such an experience may be causing iatrophobia in people. The phobia can also be caused when the person sees someone else, especially a loved one go through a distressful medical condition and doctor appointments.

Other Phobias

Iatrophobia occurs with anyone having blood- injury-injection fear. Though hemophobia (fear of blood), trypanophobia (fear of needles) and iatrophobia (fear of doctors) are three different kinds of fear, these all occur in parallel form. Furthermore, this phobia can also occur with people having nosophobia (fear of specific disease) and hypochondria (anxiety of one’s health). Dentophobia (fear of dentists) may also be causing iatrophobia alongside it.

The Symptoms of Iatrophobia

Common symptoms that can occur with both children and adults are:

  • Persistent, extreme and unreasonable fear of doctors
  • Flight or Fight response i.e. fleeing away immediately or trying to defend back upon encounter with doctors
  • Scared and anxious even seeing someone similar to doctor or someone with white coat
  • Unreasonable distress whenever doctors’ visits are anticipated
  • Trying to avoid medical check-ups or seeing doctors as much as possible
  • Knowing that the fear is irrelevant (except in children)
  • Panic attacks accompanied by physical signs such as shaking, sweating and clammy hands, heart palpitations, chest pain, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, profuse breathing, dizziness or fainting and nausea or vomiting

When to Visit a Doctor?

Iatrophobia can take a serious lead as visiting doctors and medical routines are essential parts of life. An iatrophobic person tends to put off all kinds of doctors visits even when a medical condition asks for it. Thus, if the above symptoms have been occurring for over six months time and causing damage to the health of a person, visiting the doctor is a must.

How is Iatrophobia Treated?

Several psychotherapies are effectively known to treat iatrophobia. Medicines may also be used to control the panicking of a person. Iatrophobia can be treated using:

Exposure Therapy with Relaxation

Exposure therapy is aimed at exposing the person through the fearful subject, and gradually reducing the level for fear. The therapist prepares a setting including a real doctor or a related image or video, and see how the person reacts. The therapist guides the person to confront his/her fear using relaxing ways such as breathing control, mind visualizations, meditation and muscle relaxation. The person will be able to bring down the fear and develop tolerance for doctors through regular exposure sessions.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a psychotherapy which intends to modify a person’s negative behavior and bring in positive thoughts. For iatrophobia, the therapist counsels and makes the person aware about the essentiality of a doctor. Through the regular counseling with therapist, the person will be able to release the stress and worries. Along with this, the person will also be able to develop a healthy behavior with positive thoughts.

Medicines

In severe cases of panicking in front of doctors, the person may be given anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicines. These help to balance the serotonin levels of the person’s brain which is responsible for the mood and temperament.