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.
Lobozzo, J. (2013, April 10). 5 Ways To Cure Hospital Anxiety, Surgery Fear, Fear of Medicine, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, October 1 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/04/hospital-anxiety-surgery-fear-and-medicine-worry
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
Thanks for sharing your story quite informative
i;m faceing removeing cysts on my overives in march .i ;ve terrified because i had pitures taken and nothing change .i;m afraid i could have cancer after this .i have faith in god .because my family has cancer . i cant deal with that . i not ready to died .
The prospect of cancer is a scary one indeed. Sometimes people find it helpful to begin to prepare themselves for what might be bad news because being prepared often helps people feel more in control and thus less anxious. Have you considered reading some books on ovarian cancer as well as information about how to treat it and be well? Perhaps other readers here will have their own thoughts to add from their own experiences. I hope things go very well in March.
I'm facing TKR knee surgery in couple of weeks myself. I've terrified because I had a knee scope this past Oct and nothing changed. I'm afraid I wont be able to walk or work again. I have my faith in my GOD above and going to converse with my Doc one more to ask, Is this my last choice on the table. I'm 49yrs well at least in my mind this seems life ending surgery. I've read the success rate is great amongst most people, Just like anyone else I have that fear that aniexty that what if things don't go right. So please all I feel your pain and understand excatly what people are saying on here. I offer something to all of you, It seems to work for me when my back against the wall like right now and most of all its free. Prayer............... I do believe I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I am currently suffering from a fallopian tube abscess and multiple ruptured ovarian cysts. My doctor prescribed me antibiotics, but I suffer from severe, extreme pharmacophobia. Every time I have to take a new a medication, I have a severe panic attack, terrified I'll be allergic to it. At this moment, I'm hurting terribly from this infection but when I try to force myself to take my antibiotic, all I can do is cry. I usually meditate to control my anxiety but that's not even helping. The only antibiotic I'm allergic too is penicillin (severe allergy), and this antibiotic is Flagyl, but I still can't convince myself to take it.
Facing my fear seems impossible at this point. I just don't know what to do. I hate being so scared all the time when all I want to be is "normal."
Anxiety can make us beyond miserable. And when we have physical illness tangled up in it, things become even worse. When we're not feeling in top shape, it's difficult to use our coping strategies (such as your meditation). Have you considered working with a therapist? Often, a therapist can be very helpful in reducing phobias. In the mean time, it sounds like it's very important for you to take the medication. What if, rather than thinking of all of the dangers of medication, you think of all of the benefits to your current health issues. List reasons why the medication is necessary, research the possible side effects, their likelihood, and what can be done to reverse any side effects. Also, list ways that your fallopian tube abscess and ovarian cysts are negatively affecting your life as well has how much better things will be when these problems are gone. Focusing on these things might help you take your medication more easily, and working with a therapist can help you in the long-run. Hang in there! Good luck to you as you get through this (and you most definitely can get through this!).
i have to have surgery but i am afaid i cant do this . my heart is in my mouth! surgery scares me . i had surgery before but i get anxiey atacks . i have tomophobia because i feel out of control . there has to be another way.so i need help!
Fear of surgery is a common fear, so you're not alone. Hopefully Jodi's post and comments from other readers have given you some helpful ideas. You mentioned that you've had surgery before. How did you get through it that time? What went well? Are there things you did then to feel better that might work again this time? Also, what fears did you have before, and what happened with them? Did you find that they didn't happen? Or if some of them happened, what did you do to make things better? You don't have to answer these here! :) These are just some things for you to ponder and possibly write down in a diary or journal to help you "one-up" the anxiety.
this is more i have to say i was afaid then to . but i cant do this one because i have tomophobia very bad one other time i was going to have sugery iran out of the hospital . and thay made me have shots to skink the faboils . i know i need this done i am afaid .i dont like takeing med because of side afects . i dont know what to do i dont like this.
Sometimes seeing a counselor can be very helpful in reducing phobias. Also, are there support groups (such as those associated with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness) in your area where you can talk to other people? Counselors and support groups often help people a great deal.
I have a huge anxiety of any health profession or situation. Even thinking about the doctor can throw me into a panic attack. I find it really helpful when I research my symptoms online so I have a clue what I'm getting into but everyone tells me its worse for me to do that.
I still get really freaked out when I feel like I'm being forced to go (ie, an emergency situation) but i know sometimes its necessary.
My biggest fear is being told something I'm not prepared to hear, but that can happen any time anywhere. Also I find it a whole lot easier to be around someone I trust while I'm in a anxious situation.
Will hospitals and doctors understand these fears and maybe work with me to help me relax better? I know there are certain rules to having company in the ER but I feel like if I'm alone I'm gonna have a breakdown...
The very fact that Jodi wrote a post about hospital anxiety indicates that it's fairly common. You are not the only one who feels the things you describe! In my (humble) opinion, it's great that you are researching your symptoms, reading about anxiety, hospitals, etc. and in general learning more about what you are experiencing. Knowledge really is power, and knowing what to expect can reduce the fear of the unknown. It's wonderful that you are able to identify specific sources of your fear as well as things that might help you deal with them. Every hospital is different, of course, but in general they do try to help patients relax, and they accommodate needs whenever they can. Perhaps arranging a visit to your local hospital, and having someone you trust accompany you, might help you alleviate some of your anxiety. Because every hospital is different, there isn't one specific type of person or department that handles things like this. You might want to try the hospital's website to see what they offer, whom to contact, etc. Keep working on conquering this anxiety!!
I need help with my fear of surgery. I'm not getting surgery but I'm still afraid of it. I'm scared that my body will be paralysed from the anaesthesia but I will still be awake and able to feel it. I've never had surgery before so i don't know what will happen.
You are doing the right thing to take charge of your fear -- find articles, supportive blogs, etc. These are rich with ideas and perspectives, many of which you just might find helpful. From your comment, it seems like a big source of your anxiety is fear of the unknown (a very common fear). By seeking information, you are reducing the unknown. Good luck to you as you go forward.
Im 43yo old male and i am about the have eye surgery.
I was experiencing extreme fear and anxiety with suicidal thoughts.
I went to the eye clinic to tell them there was no way i was able to continue even though i wanted the results of surgery.
Everytime i spoke to a nurse i broke down crying, i was a mess.
They sent me to emergency and i volunteerily went to a mental health ward and stayed a night.
I had previously been trying all the people around me asking for help mostly i just wanted people to listen. But the people around me didn't.
At the hospital i was surrounded by people who would listen, i was given some anxiety meds.
I now feel i can continue with surgery.
So my point. Ask for help at the hospital. Mention suicidale thoughts if you can and be surrounded by listening ears.
Helped me, hope it can help somebody else
Thank you so much for telling your story. I think many people are going to benefit a great deal from your words of wisdom. Congratulations for taking the steps you needed to take and for not giving up.
I came across this as I am experiencing horrible anxiety as I approach a near surgery for my underbite (upper jaw surgery) I am terrified of being under anesthesia I wake up everyday thinking "what if" I don't wake up what if something horrible goes wrong. I have a 6 yr old daughter and I fear that i wont see her again. I am not too scared about recovery although I will be on a liquid diet for some time, but the thought of being under is just down right terrifying me. I have been under when I got my wisdom teeth pulled. I experienced low anxiety but nothing compared to now. What do you recommend I could do to ease the anxiety and fear? I have discussed this with my surgeon as I wanted to be sure experiencing anxiety will not cause complications during the surgery. I was able to talk to a patient of his that had a similar surgery (double jaw surgery) I am having only Upper jaw. I felt better after talking to her but i am still thinking "what if" I constantly tell myself to not think about what if. It is quit difficult...
Thank you in advance.
"What-ifs" are a huge part of anxiety, and they can make us very miserable. It sounds like you are doing proactive things in talking to the surgeon and someone else who underwent a similar surgery. Have you considered talking to a therapist? Talking with a professional in person, one-on-one, can be very helpful in overcoming the "what-ifs." Something that can be helpful is to write a list of the specific things you are afraid of, then look at those one by one. Do some research, and write down how likely each is to happen, what usually happens instead, etc. Breaking down your fear and then having evidence to counter your fear can put your mind at ease. Good luck with your upcoming surgery!
Thank you for the response-
I have discussed with my manager who is a licensed therapist. She has made me feel better when I think about the upcoming surgery. I will definitely write a list of the specific things I am scared of.
Again, thank you ")
You're very welcome. I'm so glad you had a discussion with your manager and are feeling better. List-making is very helpful, and It's great you are doing that. Best of luck to you!
Im 58 years old and have agoraphobia. Im so sick right now but im afraid to go to the er because no one will go with me. The only hospital around here has a bad reputation and treats people horrible. The last time i worked up the courage to go they made fun of me and refused to treat me and just sent me home. I dont know what to do. Im so scared
I'm sorry to hear of your predicament. Unfortunately, I've heard many such stories. Some strategies that have worked for people in similar situations is to respect yourself and establish boundaries of what you will allow people to say to you, and if they cross the line, gently stand up for yourself by informing them that they are not treating you right and why. That's hard -- I'd find it difficult to do, but when it comes to your health and well-being, you are important. It might feel uncomfortable inside to demand proper treatment (and even treatment at all. I don't think that legally a hospital can refuse treatment.), but you can definitely stand up for yourself. Think of your health above all.
I had a friend with me that time and they walked all over her too. She asked them why they were refusing to do tests and this nasty doctor told her he didnt feel it was an emergency but i could die from this. Then he said if my doctor wants tests done let him do them. I was shocked. Now my doctor has ordered tests but its at this same hospital and no one will go with me. I cant do this alone im too scared. What am i going to do? I cant stop crying.
It's horrible to have an experience like the one you describe, especially when it comes to hospitals, health, etc. Have you discussed your concern about this hospital with your doctor? Perhaps there are other facilities in the area that could do the tests? Agoraphobia makes it difficult to go out in general, let alone go farther away. But it might be easier in the long run to have kinder people to help you.
My 16 year old son has been experiencing fainting spells every time I take him to a doctor,even a dermatologist! I have tried telling him him to calm down but he says that he cannot help this fainting/sinking heart feeling!What can I do to help him overcome this phobia?please help!Thanks!
Gradual exposure therapy can be very effective in overcoming specific phobias. It's very effective when done with a therapist. The principle behind it is to slowly get someone used to what he fears, little by little so it's not overwhelming. For example, he might start by simply looking at pictures of doctors and other medical things. He could then read simple books and work up to more complex things. You could drive him by a clinic or hospital every day, and when he's used to that, you could park in the parking lot and eventually he'll get out of the car and approach the building. This increase in exposure goes on until he can enter a doctor's office for an appointment. Again, it's good to do this with a therapist as he/she will prepare him for each new stage, will process the experiences with him, and will likely give other specific "homework" to help him overcome his phobia. I just wanted to give you a summary of how gradual exposure therapy works. Phobias are frustrating and limiting, but they can be overcome. Good luck to you both!
baby yesterday brought many surprises to my life, and yet i felt troubled in my heart, i could not really understand these feeling, not even when we where apart, at times i would be so very happy, but then there was loneliness in my soul darling
The meditation is the thing I will try out thanks for the help!
Jodi is the one who wrote this particular article, but as she's no longer writing for HealthyPlace, she is unable to respond to comments. I'm very glad you found her article to be helpful. I definitely recommend trying meditation. Good luck!
Thanks everyone for the great advice and sharing your fears I landed on this site be cause I have fear of hospitals and I'm in an er room and just here because of a pin that doesn't wanna go away and reading this puts me at ease with my fear thanks to the author of this subject
Welcome to the HealthyPlace Anxiety-Schmanxiety blog! I'm so glad that you discovered this resource and that this article and the responses left by everyone were reassuring. Jodi is the author who wrote the article, but as she is no longer writing for HealthyPlace, she is unable to respond to comments. I'm Tanya, one of the current authors of this column, and I just wanted to thank you for your comment and say that I'm glad that this particular article helped ease your fear a little (as you can probably tell from the responses, you're not alone in feeling fear/anxiety around hospitals). I hope that your visit to the er ended well!
When I went in for major surgery the first time at 29 I was treated horribly in the ICU by a nurse. I could not get my help button to work so I called out for 3 hours in pain. No one answered until much later, the mean nurse accused me of being on street drugs and demanded to know what I was taking to make me act so weird. (I had been in the hospital for 1 week prior due to a bowel blockage) and the only street drugs I had ever used was weed when I was a teenager. My husband came in the next morning and I told him what had happened, he showed the day nurses that my button for assistance was faulty and told the hospital etiher to move me out of ICU or he was spending the night. They moved me to another floor. Ever since then I have extreme fear of being in pain and no one answering my calls for assistance. The nurse was never fired and as far as I know, never disciplined. Luckily now I do have caring GI doctors and such so when I go to the hosiptal for tests or minor surgery I know I am in good hands. Still, my PTSD rears its head and they help keep me calm by early sedation before I go back to the OR suite.
Jodi is the one who wrote this article, but she's no longer writing for HealthyPlace so she is unable to respond to comments. While I certainly don't want to speak for Jodi, I definitely wanted to respond to your comment. What a horrible experience you describe, and it makes perfect sense that it was traumatizing and now PTSD rears its ugly head. While it might continue to rear its ugly head, there are ways you can tame it. It sounds like you already have found some ways. You are focusing on a new caring GI team, and you have worked with them on a plan to help calm you. That's empowering! It sounds like even though the fear is present, you can move past it to do what you have to do -- something to be proud of.
I went on this site to find some relief from my anxiety I have about my upcoming surgery, but after reading this comment it brought back a bad experience I had in an emergency room. I was hoping to escape that awful feeling I had there and thought I was finally over it. But now the last comment reawakened my fears. I guess I should of took the authors advice and not read others experiences in the hospital because of a chance of reading someone else's bad experience. In the ER I was in pretty bad pain in my abdomen. The doctor said he would help me with the pain and then do some tests. Hours went by and nothing was done for me even though I was still in extreme pain. I asked the nurse numerous time for relief and to see the doctor. After a few times of asking I think she became very annoyed with me. I was not being rude at all, I was just in a lot of pain. Still with no help or doctor to see me, I finally got up and walked to the nurses station and demanded to speak with the doctor. They told me to go back in my room and the doctor would see me soon. Another hour passed and this time I got upset and again called the nurse demanding some pain relief and to see the doctor. Next thing I knew a security guard walks in and tells me I have to leave. After pleading with the security guard, he said if I do not leave voluntarily I would be escorted out of the hospital. Stricken with pain and stress I left and then spent the rest of the night at home until the next morning when I went to my primary care doctor. This was the worst experience I have ever had with hospitals and doctors and it still bothers me quite often. I was in extreme pain, I wanted help but instead I was humiliated.
Just an FYI if you rip your call button out of the wall (they're made to do that in the event of an emergency) the nurses will come in immediately. I know this from personal experience. I spent a year of my life in the hospital at age 27 and I had a nurse do the exact same thing to me. I waited over half an hour for my nurse to respond before I ripped my call button out of the wall. She wasn't happy but I got what I needed and she never did it to me again ;)
I'm feeling a lot of anxiety about an upcoming surgery, specifically the third reason for anxiety that you list above, fear of my own mortality. Can you expand upon this, or tell me where I might find the separate post you mentioned? Finding your website has been really helpful, and is allowing me to keep some of the anxiety at bay, but I'd like to go deeper with that. Thanks!
Jodi is no longer writing the Anxiety-Schmanxiety column for HealthyPlace, which means that she is unable to reply to comments on her posts. I'm hesitant to expand on something that she wrote, but I did notice that there is a contact form on her website. Also, searching "fear of own mortality" brings up several reputable websites (stay away from "wiki" sites, yahoo answers, etc.) that you might find helpful. Good luck with your upcoming surgery.
There are varying degrees of fears and phobias and many times, people will have several fears and phobias, all at the same time. I remember when I had OCD, I would fear going to the hospital because they may find some terrible disease that would ultimately kill me. It wasn't until the OCD was somewhat under control I forced myself to go to the hospital, regardless of the outcome. Turns out, things weren't as bad as I had imagined and this helped with the healing process over time.
Thanks for sharing your story, Zack!
Weirdly, I used to get anxiety attacks when going to hospital...even just to visit someone else. Id get dizzy pretty soon after entering the building, sweaty palms...need to escape !!
I now deal with this by allowing no negative self talk in the lead up to a hospital visit. I feel in control, but I think I have panic memory or something because I still get mild panic bodily sensations that i've learnt to ignore.
I never had fear of hospitals or surgery etc. as long as it's for me, but visiting someone who is in hospital makes me feel so bad!
Maybe they are being saved there.
Anxiety indicates the principal psychic reaction to any illness, which implies medical treatment of the same, hospitalization and eventually surgical intervention as well. If this fear overcome the normal border of humane emotional reaction to illness, then the situation become more serious; how for patient so for medical professional staff. Therefore, it ought to be careful for the magnitude of anxiety, in order to protect the bad consequences of concrete illness due to emotional loading which may manifested with anxiety or with depression. Thus it is preferred to treat these emotional reaction from psychiatrist by current psychiatric guidelines. Your recommended psychological undertakings are welcomed, but the psychiatric treatment of these emotional reaction to any illness and its medical treatment, exhibits the best ways to manage successfully anxiety and others emotional reaction. Therefore it is advisable to have Liason Psychiatry as secured way to overcome associate emotional reaction to any disease whenever and in any time.
Or a friendly, skilled ear to listen validate and reassure!
I am having surgery on September 18th @ 8am at Loyola outpatient center, I'm scared what can I do?
We can always look forward to the definite help of this writer.
Thank you so much!