What is Iatrophobia, and What are the Best Ways to Manage it?

What is Iatrophobia, and What is the Best Way to Manage it?

The question “What is Iatrophobia” will probably result in a blank stare from the majority. Iatrophobia is an out-of-proportion and irrational fear of doctors, medical care and medical tests. Although it is difficult to cure, it is manageable, and this guide explains how.

For some, a doctor’s appointment can be a dreaded experience that can spark severe stress and anxiety. Many phobias rarely seriously impact people’s lives; however, Iatrophobia is not one of them, as people with it are unlikely to seek medical attention even if they’re very sick or show concerning symptoms.

In this article, we explore the ins and outs of Iatrophobia, detailing why people may feel anxious about visiting the doctor and offering handy tips on how to overcome this unwanted fear.

What is Iatrophobia?
In short, Iatrophobia is a specific phobic disorder for which a person may find it extremely challenging and upsetting to get treated by a doctor, even if it’s only a standard check-up.

An older woman, worried about her doctor's appointment

Before a doctor’s visit, people suffering from Iatrophobia usually experience several telling symptoms. For example, an upcoming medical appointment can be the source of constant, endless worrying, making it difficult to focus on your day-to-day tasks. What’s more, once you reach the doctor’s office, the feelings of anxiety and panic could rapidly escalate to the point that you may start sweating, crying, or simply refuse to go ahead with the check-up.

Additionally, a strong fear of doctors can provoke the so-called’ white-coat syndrome’, where the stress of seeing a medical professional can be enough to raise your blood pressure. This means that, while at home, your blood pressure figures are normal, in the presence of a doctor it skyrockets to clinically-significant levels.

If you suffer from Iatrophobia, you’re also more prone to postpone your doctor appointment, no matter how important. In fact, you would rather put off check-ups and cope with an illness on your own than get the treatment you require.

What are the causes?
There are many different reasons why someone may develop Iatrophobia. Sometimes, it could be linked to a past unfortunate experience. For instance, it may have been triggered by a doctor who lacked empathy when you were a child or by the memory of unpleasant medications and injections.

However, there may be other plenty of other causes too. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

  • Traumatic illness – If you’ve had a serious accident or a severe illness, you may associate doctors with that same unsettling experience. This means that when you have an upcoming medical appointment, you may irrationally be worried about being seriously ill again and would rather skip the check-up to avoid ‘reliving’ the past.
  • Fear of receiving bad news – One of the most common reasons why people avoid going to the doctor is because they are afraid of receiving a bad diagnosis. In fact, it has been found that two-thirds of Britons would put off a medical appointment for fear of being told that they are severely ill.
  • Embarrassment and fear of pain – Some people develop Iatrophobia because they fear that, when attending a doctor’s appointment, they might experience pain or feelings of discomfort. Not only that, but – depending on their symptoms, disease, or area of discomfort – they may be worried that the medical examination will cause them embarrassment.

How to manage Iatrophobia
There is no denying that delaying doctor appointments and missing medical tests can jeopardise one’s well-being. Since Iatrophobia can have life-threatening complications in the long run, it’s important to find a way to tackle, manage, and overcome this phobic disorder.

Richard Holmes at Westfield Health says that seeking support from a therapist can be a good step forward. “Having a long, honest chat with a therapist can be extremely beneficial,” he explains.

“In fact, it can act as an excellent way to understand where your Iatrophobia stems from, helping you identify the true source of your fear. This way, you’ll be able to address the cause of your anxiety and can then set out a plan to keep your phobia at bay.

“What’s more, you may want to be open about your feelings with your own practitioner too. A good doctor will listen carefully to your needs and concerns and will want to know how their presence affects your mental health. By being sincere about your worries, you’ll favour a better relationship with your doctor, which will, in turn, leads to better care and a more pleasant experience.”

A patient in discussion with his doctor

As well as talking to professionals, you can take several other steps to manage your Iatrophobia. For example:

  • Schedule appointments at a time that best suits your needs – Where possible, you may want to consider booking check-ups at a time that makes you feel comfortable. If you suffer from Iatrophobia, waiting all day for your doctor’s visit can cause a build-up of stress and anxiety. So, you may want to ask for an early-morning appointment to minimise your waiting time. Conversely, if you find that you’re generally more nervous and anxious in the morning, think about scheduling your check-up later in the evening.
  • Bring a friend or family member with you – Having a loved one by your side as you wait to be called can have a comforting, relaxing effect on you. Also, if you’re happy for them to enter the examination room, too, they can offer an extra pair of ears when it comes to understanding what your doctor has to say.
  • Arrange a video appointment – Depending on the nature of your doctor’s visit, you could ask your practitioner to arrange a phone call or video appointment instead. If possible, this may nip the problem in the bud, as you won’t be required to attend the clinic in person – which is what usually triggers sentiments of stress and dread.
  • Change doctor – Another option is to get a new practitioner. In fact, you may find that you may get along better with another medical professional, as you may prefer both their personality and modus operandi. It’s always helpful to feel happy and comfortable during a doctor’s visit, so going to a practitioner you like can alleviate your worries.

Phobias aren’t always easy to cure, but they can be managed. When it comes to Iatrophobia, it’s crucial to find ways to minimise its potentially dangerous effects.

Ultimately, from arranging medical appointments at a time that best suits your needs to bringing moral support to the examination room, you can take some simple steps to tackle your unwanted phobia.


  • https://www.verywellmind.com/fear-of-doctors-2671863
  • https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22191-iatrophobia-fear-of-doctors
  • https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/britons-avoid-doctor-fear-bad-news-receive-a8211791.html
  • https://cpdonline.co.uk/knowledge-base/mental-health/iatrophobia/#:~:text=Iatrophobia%2C%20an%20extreme%20fear%20of%20doctors%20and%20medical,that%20can%20have%20serious%20consequences%20for%20the%20individual.
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/doctor-office-anxiety-fear-helpful-tips#7-ways-to-combat-doctors-office-anxiety
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/white-coat-syndrome

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