Medical Phobias

What is a medical phobia?

A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder that causes an individual to experience extreme, irrational fear of or aversion to an object, situation, living creature or place. Medical phobias are amongst the most common.

Perhaps you have a fear of needles, stopping you from getting an injection that could boost your health. Maybe you are afraid of taking medication. Perhaps you are refusing treatment or a procedure due to being afraid of medical environments such as hospitals or doctors surgeries, you may even fear medical professionals themselves?

It is completely normal to feel anxious within situations where you need to see a doctor or you are worried about your health, however if your worries affect your day-to day-living or your health is being neglected in any way, your fear could be out of context. 

Medical related phobias can include:

  • Fear of Doctors or Medical Tests (iatrophobia)
  • Fear of Medical Procedures (tomophobia)
  • Fear of Blood (hemophobia)
  • Fear of Needles (trypanophobia)
  • Fear of the Dentist (dentophobia)
  • Fear of Hospitals (nosocomephobia)
  • Fear of Vomit (emetophobia)
  • Fear of Disease or illness (nosophobia/Health Anxiety)
  • Fear of Medication (pharmacophobia)
  • Fear of Anesthesia
  • Fear of Physical pain (algophobia)
  • Fear of germs (germophobia) or an OCD
  • Fear of injury (traumatophobia)
  • Fear of Death (Thanatophobia)


Other anxieties which may be linked and can lead to avoidance of medical environments can include:

How does a medical phobia start?

No one is born with a phobia. All phobias are self-created based on protection. Here are two ways of acquiring a phobia:

  1. Copying behaviour e.g. witnessing a parent with a fear of something medical related. Children learn from grown-ups who are their protectors. They teach them how to walk, talk and generally survive. To see their parents fearful of something will teach the child fear too.
  2. Experiencing a trauma. Seeing, hearing or feeling something frightening causes a heightened state of negative emotion, and stimulates The Fight or Flight Response. There is no time to calmly evaluate the situation. Therefore a memory of what occurred is often distorted. 

You might know how your medical phobia started, but if you don’t, completing a timeline can uncover the answer. Here are a few examples on how a phobia can be created:

  • As a child, were you ever taken to visit a relative in hospital before they passed away?
  • Did you have a negative experience with a nurse,doctor or in a medical facility when you were unwell?
  • When you were young, did you witness someone’s distress while receiving medical attention?
  • When you were at school, did you hear a friends detailed account of a medical procedure that they perceived as traumatic?
  • Did you almost choke on a tablet or were you accidentally given an incorrect dose of medication causing you to feel poorly?
  • Did you see a parent or relative in physical pain or faint?
  • Did you witness or were you involved in an accident where ambulances and doctors appeared on the scene
  • Were you or a loved one given bad news by a doctor?

When you experience traumatic events as a child, beliefs or schemas are installed to protect you from similar events happening in the future. The fight-or-flight response will remain attached to these memories and triggers. 

Overcoming a medical phobia

The great news is that whatever your phobia is, you can overcome it. To do this, it is vital to address and alter your perception of the events that created your phobia. Start by asking yourself if the thing you are afraid of has actually done anything to you. Did it target you? Did it create a master plan specifically to traumatise you? Once you change your perception of the thing in question, you will change how you feel. By vindicating the thing you are phobic of and finding evidence to positively support it, any phobia can be overcome.

Living with a medical phobia can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…