5 Ways To Cure Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine
Wednesday, April 10 2013 Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
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?
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