Fighting the creeping fear of the doctor’s office

Iatrophobia – now, there’s a word of the day for you.

But what exactly does it mean?

Put simply, iatrophobia is the irrational fear of doctors and medical practitioners, and it’s surprisingly common in the UK.

National news site The Huffington Post recently reported that nearly 40 per cent of people who suspect they have cancer delay visiting a doctor for fear of what they will find, with statistics showing that more than 11,500 lives could have been saved from cancer if they were diagnosed earlier.

It’s an undeniably tense time, a visit to the doctors – that one room stands as a symbol of illness, bad news and potentially fatal diagnoses. Indeed, even the awkward act of discussing your private bodily habits with someone can spark a bad bout of iatrophobia in some people.

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However, that doesn’t discount the fact that a regular check-up from a doctor is one of life’s necessities.

Professor Peter Johnson of charity Cancer Research UK said, “Of course we are all frightened of hearing that we may have cancer.

“But people need to know that catching the disease early gives them much better odds of surviving it. The best precaution anyone can take is to be on the lookout for any changes in their bodies that seem unusual for them and to get them checked by a doctor.”

It’s not just cancer, but any illness that needs to be examined. One trip to your GP could literally spell the difference between life and death.

So, what can you do to ease that fear of doctors and brave-up for a check-up?

Know you’re entering a hygienic space

Some iatrophobia is sparked by mysophobia, otherwise known as the fear of germs.

And it’s easy to see why – hanging around waiting rooms with spluttering, pale-faced wretches isn’t exactly the easiest way to feel well again, and it could put you off going to your GP altogether, especially with shock stories of MRSA and other germs stemming from surgeries.

The solution – check your doctor’s hygiene plan. Make sure their medical waste is disposed of in a conscientious fashion by bona fide professionals, know that they are always using completely sterile medical tools and ensure that they are following all personal hygiene practices down to a tee.

You might not be able to avoid ill people –you are in a doctor’s surgery, after all – but you can know that you’re in an environment that’s as clean as possible.

Get to know your GP

A big part of iatrophobia is that you’re speaking to someone who, outside of a professional environment, is a complete stranger. And if your doctor has the personality of a rotting fence stump, then the issue only exacerbates.

The trick is to find out a little bit about your GP. Not in a personal way – inviting them for a coffee and a chat is definitely crossing a line – but it’s not difficult to track down their qualifications to reassure you that, no matter how lacking in bedside manner they may be, they are fully qualified and able to help.

Try these tips and you’ll find your doctor will seem less like a big, bad wolf and more like the helpful, fully qualified professional they are.

Do you have any tips to beat the fear of the doctors? Let us know in the comments below!

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