It sounds like a cruel joke. People who have phobias can benefit from therapy, but some people have phobias involving doctors and medical care. These people need help, but the help they need comes from the very thing that fills them with anxiety. While treating people like this can certainly be challenging, there are some things experts can do to break through the fear and provide people with the help they need in order to heal.
Close to 10 percent of adult Americans struggle with specific phobias, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Often, people who have these phobias develop them quite early in life, so when they reach adulthood, they often have a barrage of habits they use in order to protect themselves from fear, including:
People with doctor phobias might avoid all medical appointments, or they might close down when they’re in the presence of anyone who seems somewhat medical. They might take illicit drugs before going to any kind of appointment, or they might behave so badly in the lobby of a medical practice that they’re removed before they get help.
Therapy can be remarkably helpful for people with phobias. Often, people react like this reflexively, and they may swear that they have no control over the ways they behave when a medical practitioner is involved. At the same time, these people may have nasty thoughts or unhealthy opinions muttering just below the surface. If they could address these thoughts, they might be able to react in a different way. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is designed to help people make those sorts of thought changes.
In a study of the issue, in the journal NeuroImage, researchers found that people with phobias who were given CBT had different brain responses after therapy, when presented with the object of their fears. The therapy allowed them to interact without fear, and it allowed the brain to heal. That’s something anyone with a phobia could benefit from.
People with doctor phobias could use these therapies, but they might need to interact with clinicians in surroundings that seem home-like and comfortable, rather than sterile and clinical. Practitioners might need to dress casually, rather than wearing white coats and stethoscopes, and these medical practitioners might be careful to use an informal, chatty tone when working with their patients. Clients might still be nervous, but the relaxed atmosphere might put them at ease and allow them to participate in the therapies that could make their fear go away altogether.
Medications might also play a role for people with severe cases of doctor phobia. Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications might take the edge off the fear just a little, and that might allow people to participate in therapies with an open heart and a clear mind. Medications can’t cure a phobia completely, of course, but they could help some people to feel comfortable enough to participate in therapy.
There are many facilities within the Foundations Recovery Network that provide a home-like experience that could be useful for someone with medical phobias. If you’d like to know more about them, please contact us.
Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse & Mental Illness