Being a Patient
Nosocomephobia: The Fear of Hospitals
by Kealan Connors
Healthcare deals with many situations on a day-to-day basis. Patients come in with a vast amount of problems and conditions. An issue that is not so often addressed is nosocomephobia. To understand this phobia here is some information that can help patients overcome this fear.
What is Nosocomephobia?
The first subject that needs to be addressed is what is nosocomephobia. According to the Cleveland Clinic, nosocomephobia is an intense, overwhelming fear of hospitals. The phobia revolves around fear, which is similar to anxiety disorder.
What are the causes?
Hospitals are often associated with injury, illness, and even death. Many people find hospitals a dark and frightening place and patients associate hospitals with the end of a life. The specific causes of nosocomephobia are:
Genetics: Some people have a family history of anxiety regarding hospitals and other specific fears.
Traumatic experiences: Previous experiences in hospitals can lead a person to fear hospitals and medical facilities. Examples such as losing a loved one, an injured child, or a bad bedside manner by a medical professional can lead to this specific fear.
Other Phobias: Fears such as blood, nudity, and germs can also relate to the fear of hospitals and leads some to avoid hospitals at all costs.
Media portrayal of hospitals: Watching the movies, shows, and news coverage can lead to fear because of the massive amounts of gore, medical errors, or fear of getting sick.
Sensory issues: People with a strong sense of smell may fear hospitals. The stench of blood, antiseptics, bedpans, vomit, or human waste can cause these people to get overwhelmed.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of nosocomephobia can range from simple to complex. Like many other phobias, nosocomephobia can be tricky to identify, though the most common symptoms associated with nosocomephobia are:
Breathlessness, rapid breathing, or hyperventilation.
Racing heart rate.
Urges to run and hide.
How can it be diagnosed?
By talking to your doctor or a healthcare professional, questions such as "how long have you had this fear?" can generate a timeline. Looking at the symptoms can determine a cause. Determining if the phobia is affecting the patient's day-to-day life and if it has been happening for at least six months can determine the severity. Lastly, if the symptoms are out of proportion with any actual danger, the doctor can determine if the phobia is valid or a sign of some other phobia.
What are treatments?
After looking at all the symptoms, diagnosis, and phobias, what are the treatment options?
There is no cure for nosocomephobia, though many forms of treatment can help a patient overcome this phobia.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: This therapy is a structured physiotherapy that can help patients control their thoughts and emotions to a specific time in their life or a specific fear. The therapist communicates with the patient to uncover the reason for the fear. The therapist and patient can then explore the reasoning for the behavior. Over time, it can help the patient forget about the negative aspects of the hospital or the fear that lead them to associate the negative thoughts (Cleveland, 2022).
Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is when a therapist helps the patient gradually introduce their fears in a safe space. This can include a photo of a hospital, a walk near a hospital, then stepping foot into a hospital. The slow exposure to the fear will help the patient feel less scared of a hospital and allow them to overcome the fear (Cleveland, 2022)
Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy can put you in a trance-like state. This type of hypnosis can allow the therapist to try and convince the patient that they are not afraid of hospitals or medical facilities.
Medications: Medications are one of the more common and simple treatments for this phobia. There are a variety of antidepressant/anti-anxiety medications that can lessen the anxiety related to the phobia. The medications are not a cure-all/end-all for this fear, though they do help with the feelings of fear associated with the patient's phobia.
How can a patient reduce the risk?
Like many phobias, scientists and other medical professionals can not pinpoint the cause or the risk of getting a phobia such as nosocomephobia. A person experiences different situations in life, and each deals with them in idiosyncratic ways. A patient may lower their risk of nosocomephobia by:
Limiting their alcohol and drug use.
Lowering stress in everyday life.
Quitting smoking/tobacco products.
Spending time with loved ones.
Beginning a new hobby that takes your mind off of the phobia.
Kealan Connors has always wanted to help people in any way, shape, or form. From a young age, he has always been engaged within his community, from building walking/biking trails in his local parks to helping his friends. This desire led him to pursue a degree in communications from Southern Oregon University. Currently, at 22, he resides in Grants Pass, Oregon. He also holds an Associate's degree in Arts from Rogue Community College. He wants to work in a career where people are the focus, whether in health care, politics, or a nonprofit organization. His favorite hobbies are going on long walks with his yellow lab, Taffy, mountain biking, and generally, he loves to be outside. Right now, he is starting a new hobby in cooking.