5 Ways To Cure Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine
What do hospital anxiety, surgery fear and fear of medicine have in common? They are all extremely common things that people get anxious about. In fact, some people become so anxious, these normal fears turn into phobias. 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.
Millions of people have hospital anxiety, fear of surgery, and are afraid to take medicine. Even if the medication is for anxiety, some people claim they are too anxious to take it! (I, too, felt this way when I was anxious.) But what causes these fears and what can you do about them?
I received this DM in Twitter (@JodiAman) last week:
I'm having surgery on my knee soon and I am terrified! I just read your anxiety blog and wanted to ask you, what do you think is the best way to deal with anxiety when it comes to things like this?
3 Reasons Why Hospital Anxiety and Surgery Fear Are So Common
1. A key reason for hospital anxiety and surgery fear is that people feel out of control. It is not natural to hand our healing over to someone else, even though it's part of our culture to do so. Deep down, we get afraid of giving up this innate power to heal ourselves. And for this reason, it is disconcerting, especially when you are 'going under' (anesthesia).
2. The second reason for fear of hospitals and surgery is what is at stake: A better life. Sometimes the illness or injury that has led us on this path to the procedure we are facing has really put a wrench in the spokes. We have so much invested in hoping that things can be better again. Sometimes, we postpone the medical procedure because we are too afraid it won't work.
3. The last reason is that going to the hospital and having surgery or taking lifesaving medication brings up fear of our own mortality. (This is a biggie so I will have to save this for another post.)
Ways To Help Your Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine
1. Trust Your Practitioner
This is by far the most important part of calming the fear of surgery and hospital anxiety. Trust is the opposite of anxiety. Feeling out of control settles if you feel in sync with the person who is helping you. Knowing you are confident in the doctor makes you feel more in control of the situation. That's because you know he or she is in control, and that he or she–at least in this instance–is more capable than you to do this procedure. I would do affirmations of gratitude for my doctor, the nurses, all the hospital staff, and my family for their assistance.
2. Trust Yourself
Anxiety implies mistrust of others, but this is just a reflection of mistrust for yourself. Trust yourself to listen to your body. Your body knows what it needs. Make decisions accordingly. Trust those decisions. Trust that you can do what you can to give yourself the highest potential for maximum recovery. For example, eat what they tell you, participate in rehab, occupational therapy or physically therapy as directed, etc. Do affirmations expressing gratitude for yourself. "Thank you so much for all you are putting in to making this work!"
Do guided imagery, seeing yourself recover calmly and doing well.
3. Take Action to Help Yourself
Do things that would be healing for your medical problem as well as your anxiety, like meditate (Tratak meditation is good to clear your mind or just imagine light at the place(s) your body needs healing), eat clean, exercise to build endurance for recovery, spend time with loving people, laugh, journal, pray, spend time outside or with your pets, engage in a creative hobby, clean out your house, or do some volunteer work. Just stay productively active so your mind doesn't wander to gloom and doom.
4. Educate Yourself
Doing research into your medical issue can calm hospital anxiety and surgery fear (but it also can increase it). You can find horrible, rare accounts online that could terrify you more, but there are also many accounts that could help relax you. For some people, knowing what is going to happen makes them feel more in control and this is calming for them. Also, knowing our body's capacity to heal itself is so reassuring. Research also can provide tips on the best ways for recovering from your particular medical issue. This information is invaluable!
5. Plan Well
When you are healing, it is great to be able to focus all of your energy on healing. (Not anxiety; we do not want to waste time on anxiety.) So it is great to make a plan for post-surgery. This will give you something to take your attention away from the surgery. Organize people to help and who will do what. Get together the things you might need (books, audiobooks, movies), and some stations for where you will plant yourself, complete with a side table for all the stuff–glass of water, tissues, lotion, lip balm, back scratcher, and the remote–that you will want at arm's length. Get your kids schedules all sorted out, catch up at work and home so everything is left organized. It feels awful when you cannot get up to be staring at a cluttered and messy room.
Curing Hospital Anxiety, Fear of Surgery and Medicine
The best thing about hospital anxiety, surgery fear and fear of medicine is that this anxiety is temporary. (All anxiety is temporary but it is easier to convince yourself in this case.) When you are well, it will be gone.
We have surgery, even if it is elective, in hopes that it will either lengthen our life or give us a better quality of it. We take medicine for the same reasons. Even though allopathic medicine gets a bad rap sometimes for over-medicalizing and America is criticized for exporting our mental health diagnoses (which I agree with by the way), we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Allopathic medicine has saved countless lives, it has helped many people walk, talk, hear and see when they couldn't before. It is a blessing to have. And if we make our medical journeys about relationships, relationships with our caregivers, relationships with ourselves, we get so much more healing out of it than just physical.
How do you do something you don't want to do?
Get my free E-book: What Is UP In Your DOWN? Being Grateful in 7 Easy Steps.
LCSW-R, J. (2013, April 10). 5 Ways To Cure Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/04/hospital-anxiety-surgery-fear-and-medicine-worry
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
I Salah Al-Azraqi Iraqi national living in the United Arab Emirates
i have a tumor in the internal auditory canal nerve I ask you to help me how to contact one of the doctors in the surgery Specialists nervous for surgery to remove it.
I'm sorry to read about your tumor. Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with healthcare in the UAE. Perhaps there is a source in your community that can assist you. Often religious or community organizations know of resources and/or how to get medical services. I wish you the best of luck.
I am 46 now. Since then I have had my gall bladder removed with no pain medication. I had a total hysterectomy with only oral pain meds and went home the next day. Two carpal tunnel surgeries that I only had a block for, I stayed awake and talked to the surgeon the whole time.
I am facing a major back surgery now, it is done out of state and by a staff I don't know. I am beyond scared. What if they insist on iv pain medication and I can't wake up again? I don't think I can go through that again. I can handle the pain , but cannot handle the feeling of drowning again.
I can't sleep, or relax and I have a month to go before surgery. I am afraid I will have a heart attack or stroke before the surgery.
Is there any way that you could perhaps email one of the doctors or the hospital to discuss pain management with them? Then you could explain your situation and experience?
Best of luck!!
I learnt today that I have to have spinal surgery. I am actually still in shock because I am so scared of hospitals, surgery, pain and needles! How will I survive the weeks leading up to Dday? I am so anxious, I am actually shivering and sweating!! I am scared of being scared! And I feel like a total idiot!
Is there any medication that I can take from now up to the day of surgery as well as on the day of surgery? How I pray to wake up and find it was just a nightmare.
The thought of spending the night in the hospital terrifies me. Have never had any surgeries or broken bones. Almost never get sick.
Guess I just needed to vent.
I am too scared to commit to the spinal surgery the doctor suggested, but am so tired of tbe terrible too. I am getting anxiety attacks on a daily base now and just feel horrible. Any advice, please?
My mother is booked to go to hospital for a prolapse operation. She suffers from extreme anxiety about hospitals and is unable to manage the physical effects of that or speak up for herself. Like some of the writers above she finds that people do not listen to her and often say things which she interprets as very nasty. She told her GP who advised the hospital and said she would need to have a patient advocate. Unfortunately the next hospital visit did not seem to go any better than usual with the surgeon saying something, supposedly joking, along the lines that if she died before the surgery, which was then some months away, it would save some money! Mum was so horrified she couldn't say anything. When she is in hospital her body seems to shut down and she cannot pass bowl motions or even sometimes urine. During her last admission she tried to go to the bathroom and fainted on the way, badly spraining her knee. She is also very sensitive to drugs, needing very little to have a large effect, and is unused to taking even asprin. She has just been sent the forms to fill in before going to the pre-admission visit and we wonder what she can write in the box that says is there anything the hospital should know, that would possibly assist her to get appropriate care while avoiding labelling her a "problem patient or trouble-maker."
Your concern represents a very common problem. People are unsure of how much to disclose to hospitals, clinics, schools, employers, etc. On one hand, it's very important to advocate for your needs, but on the other, when people do speak up for themselves, especially regarding mental health issues, too often they get labeled, as you say, problem patient or trouble-maker. Many times the key is balance (but figuring out the balance is a long-term learning process, I think). Perhaps indicating on the form that your mom experiences anxiety about hospitals or medical procedures without saying anything further would alert them to be sensitive without having them treat you and your mom like "trouble-makers." Most medical personnel, while not always experts in mental health, do know basics such as how to be sensitive to heightened anxiety. Also, other readers here might have their own suggestions. Good luck to you and your mom!
It can be anxiety-provoking to take medication, especially when it's unclear exactly what it does (other than "get rid of" something) and what the side effects are. Have you talked to a pharmacist about your concerns? He/she can usually explain medication in detail. It can be helpful to write down pros and cons of taking it vs not taking it. Think about how you feel without it and how you might feel after taking it. Also consider what's potentially more harmful: taking it or not taking it. These might help you make a logical decision. Other comments in this thread might give you ideas, too.