Iatrophobia (Fear Of Doctors)

Latrophobia (fear of doctors) is a common phobia, and the hospital environment is one of its kind. Consequently, about 3% of the world’s population has an intense fear of doctors and hospitals. Read on to learn more.


Good health is important and you must see a physician when ill or you have an appointment, but the rate at which people forego appointments due to the fear of doctors and hospitals is worrying. It is normal to experience some form of anxiety when at a doctor’s appointment. However, some people portray excess anxiety whenever they need to see a doctor.

The extreme fear of doctors is a disorder referred to as latrophobia. It is somehow challenging to differentiate between normal stress and fear of doctors. The difference between the two can only be distinctly pinpointed by a qualified and experienced mental health practitioner or psychologist.


Every case is unique and different. This is mainly attributed to the variance in the thinking patterns of people. Every human being has their way of perceiving sounds, imagery and experiences. As such, it can be quite challenging to give an accurate one-fits-all-description of the symptoms that you will use to determine whether you are suffering from a fear of doctors or not. Even the medication and treatment that you may receive as a result of the ailment will not target the phobia but the symptoms. Nonetheless, several characteristics have been witnessed in many Iatrophobes.

Mental symptoms

  • Thinking obsessively about illness or doctors
  • Inability to focus on anything else
  • The explicit imagery of medical procedures and exaggerated perceptions about doctors
  • A feeling of detachment from reality and one’s self
  • Fear of helplessness
  • Fear of fainting or losing consciousness
  • Physical symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking and trembling/ shivering
  • Discomfort in the chest area/ pain
  • Choking
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Rumbling stomach or discomfort
  • Numbness
  • Temperature flashes
  • Palpitations
  • Racing heart
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Unreasonable distress
  • Excessive fear upon seeing someone in doctor’s attire
  • Skipping doctors’ appointments
  • Fight response: patients usually try to defend themselves from their doctors upon an encounter
  • Flight urge: many Iatrophobes feel an urgent need to elope and leave the clinic or hospital as fast as is humanly possible and never go back

What causes fear of doctors?

The main causes of the phobia include the fear of learning about your results or the outcome of a diagnosis, and in some cases exaggerated worry and sensitivity to needle-related pain. Patients with a serious phobia of doctors and health care centers usually make it very difficult for physicians to give them the care they need. The consequence of such a phobia is unimaginable, as the illness or condition ailing the patient may progress rapidly, and with little or no medication to control it, it may take the patient’s life sooner rather than later. As indicated earlier, the characteristics and dynamics surrounding each case are unique. None the less, the most common causes of the phobia include:

A previous traumatic situation or encounter

Many people start to develop the phobia following an extremely painful and traumatic experience. The event could be a rigorous medical procedure during early childhood or early adulthood. Some Iatrophobes may have met or been attended to by cruel, rude or frightening physicians previously. Other people develop the condition after seeing a loved one go through a painful or traumatic procedure.

Other fears

It is commonly believed that if you have other phobias other than fear of doctors, you have a higher chance of developing an unreasonable fear or distress when being treated or when you see a doctor. The condition is common in people suffering from blood-injury-injection type phobia.

Some of the fears known to cause the condition include the fear of needles and blood. Nonetheless, the phobia can also occur in patients suffering from fear of a particular disease, health-related anxiety and the fear of dentists.

Can fear of doctors be treated?

Luckily the phobia can be managed, and the symptoms can be considerably minimized through careful medication and therapy. Some of the most common treatment options include:

Exposure therapy

This therapeutic intervention is characterized by the exposure of the patient to the subject and gradually helping them minimize the fear. The therapist usually prepares a video or invites a real doctor and guides the patient in confronting their fear through relaxation methodologies such as controlled breathing, mental visualization, and meditation. When done repeatedly for some days or weeks, therapy can help the patient reduce the fear significantly.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

This is a psychotherapeutic intervention that is aimed at altering the patient’s negative attitude through reinforcement of positive thoughts. The patient is counseled about the importance of a doctor, and after some time they shall be able to release their anxiety and start acting positively.


Some patients, however, cannot change their attitudes towards doctors through therapy and counseling. These patients usually require a more rigorous program that will involve the prescription of certain medications to reduce their panic. Common drugs include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills. These drugs counter the rising serotonin levels in the brain and as a result, help reduce the anxiety and worry amongst other symptoms.

Can you prevent fear of doctors?

Fears cannot be prevented, but they can be managed through proper preparation and relaxation. Fear of doctors, for instance, can be controlled through:

· A relaxation exercise before the visit: you could do control breathing or listen to calming music while waiting for your turn

· Avoid googling your symptoms: Google has been found to be a notoriously leading cause of illness-related anxiety. If you feel unwell, see a physician. Avoid researching it on the internet.

· Acknowledging the anxiety: denial is a big problem with regards to the management of phobias. Just accept that you are a little anxious or worried and then let it go. It is only through this procedure that you successfully avoid a panic attack while in the doctor’s room.

Overall, it is essential to see a therapist or doctor and have your latrophobia treated. A good doctor will always work at the pace of a patient. He/she will always give you time to become comfortable with the health facility or environment before commencing treatment.