The Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center
Offering the keys to recovery since 1971

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Fear of Going to the Doctor

I have a fear of doctors and a phobia of them touching me-I don’t even want my husband to go to a doctor for the same reason. We are getting to the age where going to the doctor and possibly the hospital is inevitable. I feel so humiliated admitting this, but I have panic attacks when thinking about undressing and being touched by a doctor.

Throughout history, human beings have gone to doctors or other healers to be examined. It is an impersonal process for the practitioner-perhaps like working on a crossword puzzle. You have an association in your mind between touching and a sexual connotation which does not exist in real life when in a doctors office. As in any phobia, these irrational fears disappear with exposure. Start by having your husband go to the doctor. Certainly he should not be denied medical care because of your fears. Then, if necessary, seek a trained anxiety specialist who can teach you to change your erroneous thought patterns and do exposure therapy with you. First step would be to practice by going to the doctors office, sitting in the waiting room, then maybe have the nurse take you back to the examining room and when you are comfortable with that, have the doctor come in to talk to you and possibly check your ears or nose or do something that is not too difficult for you. Then progress from there to a fuller exam when you are ready. Take small steps to get the check up that you need, as an annual exam can prevent numerous doctors appointments in the future!


I Hate to Have My Picture Taken!

I have had a phobia of having my picture taken since I was just a toddler. I am OK with handling cameras, seeing pictures of myself and having others see the pictures. It’s the process that is the problem.  My worst experience was just a year ago. I went into panic attack mode and I’ve never done that before. I’ve never met anyone with this problem but I need help.

You are suffering from some variant of a social phobia. In any case, it does sound like a true phobia and should respond to the usual treatment of desensitization. Try taking your own picture with a time delay camera, then maybe have a close friend or relative practice taking your picture from a long distance away then approach to take pictures in a closer and closer range. Remember, this is only a feeling you get, it is only anxiety not a real danger. Count backwards from 100 by 2’s during the photograph taking so your attention is focused on something other than your anxiety. That way, you can handle the momentary anxiety that being the center of attention during a photograph requires.


Fear of Vomiting

My daughter is 10 years old and in 5th grade.  Ever since she was in 1st grade, she has been afraid of vomiting.  I think something happened to her in 1st grade either she got sick or was made to eat her lunch which made her feel sick.  Since then, when she gets nervous, she feels she is going to throw up.  I get calls from the school saying she doesn’t feel well but I can usually get her to go back to class and finish the day.  She is now making a habit of feeling sick before her hockey games until about the third period.  Once she knows it is soon over, she feels fine.  She is an excellent player and wants to play, but says she doesn’t know how to stop her mind from worrying.  

Dr. Neuman writes:
Phobic men and women often develop a fear of losing control.  Sometimes this is expressed as a fear of “going crazy” or fainting of screaming and, not uncommonly, a fear of vomiting.  Almost always these fears are unjustified.

Occurring in a child, such a fear would usually be called a social phobia.  You are quite correct to encourage your daughter to attend class and her various other activities.  At this point, I would do two important things: I would tell your daughter that this is a common worry and the chance of her actually throwing up is close to zero.  Secondly, I would discuss with her what she imagines throwing up to be like and that people do throw up sometimes.  Usually there is time to get to a bathroom to vomit in private but even in public, this is not a terrible experience.  Play down the idea of being embarrassed by ordinary physical weaknesses.  Also have her focus her attention on the game or counting backwards from 100 by 2’s or doing girls names, A is for Anne,  B is for Barbara, C is for Carol, etc. so that she is focused on something in the present and does not have that “what if” thinking about what might happen in the future.


Social Phobia, Writing in Public

I find when I have to write in front of someone, such as a simple matter like writing my name in front of a bank clerk, my hand shakes to the point you can’t read my name or anything else I may write.  This is very embarrassing to say the least.  Is this a lack of confidence or is it a phobia or an anxiety disorder? 

This is a symptom of a social phobia.  People often imagine they are being scrutinized, often for shaky or sweaty hands.  One of our Phobia Counselors, Judy Shaw has recovered from this and offers the following comments:

First of all remember that this fear is common-the fear of being judged and being trapped in a situation.  I would suggest these manageable steps:

With pad and paper in hand, go to a mall, sit and write in public.  Make notes, write in your journal, and do this for 20 minutes at a time and as often as you can.  Once you are comfortable doing this, ask strangers for directions and write them down as they tell you.  Do this as often as you can.  Next, with a trusted person, go to a post office or a small store.  Ask your friend to engage the clerk in conversation while you are signing a check or a credit card receipt.  This deflects the attention from you and allows you to practice signing your name in public.  Next step would be to go to a store by yourself with the purpose of writing a check for the purchase but with enough cash as your “safety valve”.

Remember there will be anticipatory anxiety so learn techniques to manage your feelings.  Don’t be discouraged and keep working in manageable steps.