Nosocomephobia is the extreme fear of hospitals. It is a fairly common phobia; many people (including US President Richard Nixon) are known to suffer from it. Nixon’s remark that “If I go to a hospital, I’m fairly sure I won’t come out of it alive” is quite well known.
Nosocomephobia is derived from Greek and Latin words. Greek ‘nosos’ stands for diseases while ‘comes’ is Latin for consequences or companion. Nosokomein is also the Greek word for hospital. Phobias closely related to Nosocomephobia include: Hemophobia or the ‘fear of blood’ or Iatrophobia –the fear of doctors, Mysophobia-the fear of germs, Thanatophobia-fear of death and trypanophobia-the fear of needles.
To an extent, we are all afraid of hospitals, especially the emergency rooms. Not only do hospitals mean illness, pain, blood, disease or death; they even usually result in huge expenses. Visiting a hospital means having to deal with sickness: yours, or someone else’s.
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Normally, we all find a way of dealing with this anxiety that comes with visiting a hospital. Most people understand that it is a medical necessity and that one does not have a choice but to get over with it. In case of Nosocomephobia though, the patient simply refuses to go to a hospital and this often results in some very negative consequences including death especially in case of major life threatening conditions/events. A Nosocomephobe experiences a full blown panic attack at the sight or even thought of visiting a hospital as a result of which he/she simply refuses to step inside one. While most realize that their fear is irrational, they feel quite powerless to overcome it.
Causes of Nosocomephobia
- The fear of hospitals phobia usually has its roots in the phobic’s past. A negative or traumatic event associated with hospitals is the most likely reason behind this phobia. Death, news of passing away of a loved one, diagnosis of a fatal disease of self or loved one might have occurred in hospitals and could have been traumatic to the phobic. His brain then conditions the same response over and over each time he has to deal with a hospital.
- Hospitals are also known to be ‘germy’ places: people are coughing, sneezing, vomiting etc. Mysophobes- people who have the extreme fear of germs or acquiring contagious diseases- tend to fear hospitals due to this reason.
- Hospitals are often vivid reminders that life is short and that every one dies at one point or another. This can be a scary and ‘hard-to-deal with’ prospect for some people.
- The fear of hospitals could also be related to more prosaic issues: they usually have a particular antiseptic smell; there are bedpans, backless hospital gowns, and sick roommates and so on. Often one is out of control and completely at the mercy of doctors and nurses. One might have felt humiliated or ‘undignified’ in a hospital. The nurses and doctors keep coming and going at odd hours. These may be some minor issues that can still strengthen one’s fear of hospitals.
- News, media reports or TV/Movies about hospital mishaps are also likely to lead to the phobia. Unfortunately, this concern is not totally without basis- today medical malpractice and errors have become fairly routine occurrences. Even advanced countries are known to have mistakenly administered wrong drugs/treatments/procedures despite their best efforts. For people with nervous mindsets or adrenal insufficiency or those already suffering from other phobias, such reports can induce a permanent fear of hospitals.
Symptoms of Nosocomephobia
The symptoms of the fear of hospitals phobia vary depending upon the intensity of fear. Most people experience the following physical and emotional symptoms:
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- Full blow panic attack- running away, shaking, shivering, trembling
- Feeling nauseated
- Experiencing elevated heart rate, shallow and rapid breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Avoidance behavior- refusing to go to the hospital- this can often lead to very serious consequences.
- Feeling uncontrollable anxiety -the phobic might feel detached from reality or feel like he is going completely crazy.
Treating Fear of Hospitals
Much like the treatment of other phobias, Nosocomephobia is also treated using a combination of medicines, psychotherapy and self-help techniques.
To overcome the extreme anxiety related to fear of hospitals, doctors might prescribe some anti-anxiety medication- but this is not recommended for long term use.
Hypnotherapy and talk therapy are other proven measures of overcoming the phobia. These help get to the root of the fear and also help the phobic rationalize it. Energy Psychology or “needle-less acupuncture” is a modern therapy used for overcoming Nosocomephobia. It helps the patient feel more in control and change his response to the fear.
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Other mentionable treatments to overcome Nosocomephobia include NLP or neuro-linguistic reprogramming, and systematic desensitization therapies. Self help techniques like Yoga and meditation can also be used alongside these therapies to overcome the fear of hospitals once and for all.