Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phobias



Phobias are one of those things that I think everyone has - at least one. In my case it's doctors, doctor's offices, medical equipment, nurses, or anything that has to do with messing with my body, short of having a hot stone massage. I find myself either surly, or worse in my opinion, desperately insecure, whenever I have to visit the doctor. My blood pressure rises and I have a hard time sitting still while waiting. And waiting is something you do when visiting the doctor. My phobia even as a name - Iatrophobia - a fear of doctors.

At any rate, I am of the age where one has to have preventative tests. The usual mammogram, blood tests, and colonoscopy. Somehow I have managed to dance around not getting any of these tests for two years. I've had good excuses. At one point we were not sure when our insurance would be canceled from a company that had merged with my husband's company and had a contract to pay our insurance for two years. Unfortunately that company went bankrupt six months after the merge. So for the next year we waited to be canceled. Not a good time to have tests that might preclude being able to get insurance at all. We all know insurance companies would like nothing better than to exclude you from any policy for a pre-existing condition. Our health care is now in corporate hands, not doctors.

The dreaded colonoscopy I've managed to avoid for six years. Each year I visit the doctor and the doctor writes an "order" to have it done. I would put it off and, lucky for me, I would move and then have to start all over again. But now I'm back to my original doctor, the one I had six years ago that first sent me  to have it done. I ignored last year's, telling her our insurance had been canceled, which was true, just not at the time she wrote the order. But this year I had absolutely no excuse. I was caught with no way out. I had put it off long enough, and with colon cancer in the family, it was just plain irresponsible.

Phobias are debilitating. They often have absolutely nothing to do with reality, but they keep us from doing things that are in our best interest. And there are many, many different types of phobias, from a phobia of erect penises, Medorthophobia, to gaiety, Cherophobia. You can find a complete list here. Chances are you have a problem with something on the list.

Phobias are treated in a number of ways, some listed here. But I have found from my own experience that using relaxation techniques, combined with actually facing the fear, works well for my phobias. Simply put yourself in a relaxed state and walk through the fear. Do it over and over. In my case, I walked myself through the entire colonoscopy procedure in my mind. I watched myself get up, shower, get dressed, get in the car, etc., all the while feeling relaxed and free of fear. Did it work? Yes. It worked enough to get me there and do what I needed to do without freaking out.

My point is that fear is something that is constructed in the mind, and the mind can help you release the fear. It's more a matter of controlling the thoughts and programming our brains to think the thoughts we want it to be thinking. The body's autonomic nervous system will follow the directions from the brain, and the brain will follow directions from the mind. Does that make any sense?

What about you - any phobias?

50 comments:

Expat From Hell said...

Geez. I know I am hypochondriacal, so I probably have a phobia of looking at phobia lists. Probably best that I just appreciate your posting and avoid that link. Get the colonoscopy, by the way. It is far easier that you fear it will be. Trust the California freak on this one! EFH

Nancy said...

It doesnt sound like what you had was a phobia. I have a phobia of driving the freeway. I can't go anywhere far and it is really not great to have this. I feel like a loser for not being able to volunteer to be the driver for my daughters girl scout troupe for anything far away. People look at me like I am a lunatic when I try to explain. Its not fixable by simple exposure. Its a deep rooted psychological problem stemming from my childhood, and is linked to agoraphobia. I doubt I will ever be able to fix it, have been through many types of therapy including attempting to be hypnotised. It did not work. I was unhypnotisable!!! So, I dont know how to rid myself of it. I really want to, but have no money currently for any therapies and our cobra is about to run out. And that universal health care everyone was yapping about when we voted Obama in, well, it doesnt exist.

Lori said...

First of all I like how you approach your phobia...I think this technique could be used to face fears in general.

I have a deep fear of snakes. Not sure if that is a phobia or not.

I deal more with regular fear as related to my post traumatic stress disorder..I have horrible nightmares as related to being attacked which makes me fear going to sleep. I do relaxation exercises to go to sleep at night. I refuse to take any medications for it.

I am really thankful for my doctor whom is not like any doctor I have ever had. She is much like the old fashioned country doctors...she makes housecalls and spends a lot of time with you and she also believes in natural methods of treatment. Hope you get in soon for that colonoscopy! XX

Nancy said...

Expat - I did. And you're right - not as bad as my mind made it out to be. But I'm glad you don't have to do them monthly.

Nancy - Try the technique that works for me. Just keep doing it over and over. I can't say it will work for you, some phobias are really stubborn, but it's free and it couldn't hurt. Unfortunately, we are at a time in our country where we have to do what we can for ourselves. Depending on our government for anything is simply wishful thinking.

Nancy said...

Lori - You sound like you have a wonderful doctor! I want her! I did do the procedure and you are right - not as bad as I made it out to be.

Jeff D'Antonio said...

It's arachnophobia for me (spiders). And I'm okay with that. I have no need or desire to get over my fear of them...

As for the colonoscopy, the stuff you have to do the day before is far worse than the procedure itself. Read Dave Barry's colonoscopy story for a humorous spin on a serious subject. I read this while going through the prep phase for mine (let's just say I had a LOT of time for reading that day...) and it made the whole process much more bearable.

Leah J. Utas said...

Coulrophobia. Fear of clowns. I'd work to get over it, but I despise them as well as fear them so there's not much point.

Angella Lister said...

Well. At the risk of sounding completely egocentric, you wrote this post today, FOR ME. You walked right inside my head and gave me the talking to I needed, and then set the example to boot, because I too, have been ignoring doctors' orders for going on 4 years now, and have not had the prescribed tests. And I too have a family history, and I too kept moving from doctor to doctor and just this morning I was in the shower thinking, you really must find a doctor and commit to the relationship and start doing what you need to do for your health, because now you are being irresponsible. And then I logged on to my blog and your post was at the top of my blog roll having been the one most recently put up. So. forgive my myopia, but I really think the universe tapped you to give this message to me this morning. And I thank you!

Amy said...

Nancy, I'm so happy you were able to get that procedure done so congrats on that! As for phobias, I've had one since I was about 3 - it's Ornithophobia, fear of birds. I love to watch birds in nature but if a bird gets near me, especially in flight, all bets are off. I was able to go to a nature type show in an outdoor arena this summer with my family - if "the Elliot" hadn't been there, there is no way I would have done it! Birds were flying but were trained so I managed to not show my palpable fear! And the biggest advance I made was in a dream - I actually held a bird in my hand and could feel it's weight. Phobias are real and we just have to do the best we can - I do like your method of relaxation.

Grandmother said...

I'm feeling really, really grateful for not having medorthophobia. And good for you for feeling the fear, walking yourself through it and doing it anyway!

Angella Lister said...

I just read that Dave Barry piece that Jeff D'Antonio recommended and I was weeping from laughing so hard. Okay, I will make an appointment today! It seems that there are many like me out there. Thanks again!

Brian Miller said...

dont know that i have a phobia...but i do have a fear of something happening to my kids...yeah, get it done...better to be safe...

Meeko Fabulous said...

I have a fear of going to the dentist. It launches me into a full on panic attack cry fest hard to breathe sort of a thing. Lucky for me, I go to a sedation dentist. LoL So there's a way around my phobia. I fall asleep and don't remember anything! :)

Joanne said...

It's amazing the power the mind has, and how if we control our thoughts, we are controlling so much more too. How's the saying go ... Mind over matter!

lakeviewer said...

Oh my, we can all relate to this post! Excellent points, Nancy! This should be handed out at every doctor's office!

Nancy said...

Jeff - Thank you so much for sending this to me! It was sooo funny! And absolutely true. I sent it on to a friend who is scheduled for next month, but on shaky ground. It was just what she needed to read.

Leah - LOL!! I see your point.

Angella - I think you're right - this post is meant for you! Make the appointment today. You were sent here for a reason. And it is truly - no big deal!

Amy - My youngest has the same phobia! She thinks humming birds can put your eye out!

Grandmother - LOL! Me too.

Brian - I have that one too!

Meeko - Gotta love those drugs!

Joanne - It is so very true.

lakeviewer - It's kind of comforting to see I'm not alone.

Hilary said...

Claustrophobia and I had to work on that when I needed a cat scan a few years back. Just like you, I discovered that it wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared. Having had a colonoscopy before, I found the worst part was the prep.

I'm glad everything turned out well in the end. (bad choice of words) ;)

luksky said...

I have a fear of vomiting which I think is a peculiar fear..at least considering that I have never known or heard of anyone else having the phobia. I also fear dentists....for that reason I have not been to the dentist in over 30 years.

The Good Cook said...

Heights. I cannot tolerate being out in an open height. Closed in, I'm okay, like a very tall building. We hiked the beehive in Maine 2 years ago and I was shaking and crying the entire hike. Afterward, my sister in law said to me, aren't you glad you did it? My very loud, stout answer was NO!

DJan said...

I have a mild case of claustrophobia and discovered it when I went to Carlsbad Caverns as a kid. It was so scary to feel the weight of all that rock above me. And I've experienced it a time or two since, but being a miner or caver is not in my cards.

I was also scared of the colonoscopy until I had it, Verced made it go away. But the prep was no fun at all! Glad you did it, next time (hopefully in ten years) it won't be so bad.

Pat said...

The colonoscopy didn't bother me - the prep did!

I fear water - I can't swim. I almost drowned twice in high school swimming. I don't even like walking near the edge of the deep end of the pool!

Nancy said...

that's funny. I can't do my phobia over and over since I don't want to endanger everyone on the freeway. See, you did not have a phobia or you would know what I am saying. Being a little afraid of something, is NOT a phobia. Your technique would involve me getting on the freeway and I can't do that without having a full blown panic attack that would end with me crashing.

alaine@éclectique said...

I'm with Hilary, the prep for the colonoscopy was worse than the procedure. Perhaps it's the result that's feared. My phobia is driving into the city; I just won't, after bouncing off a tram and totalling my car 36 years ago! Great post; gosh, that list of phobias is enormous!

Deborah said...

Nancy, what strieks me most about this piece is your very rational approach to your fear. (And to most other things in your life, I suspect) The other thing that really made an impression was reading of an American's personal experience with respect to medical insurance. I've read/heard in the media about the (old?) health care system in the US but hearing directly from you how it affected your management of your health care was sobering. I can't imagine, quite frankly, electing not to have a procedure because I was afraid of not being insured because of it.
You have some very practical advice here, and while I can't immediately think of a situation where I'd use it, you never know.... I'm afraid of heights, but I wouldn't call it a phobia.

And I had to laugh at your partial list of unusual phobias!

Nancy said...

Hilary - I'm not crazy about tight spaces, either. I had no idea I felt that way until I had to have an MRI many years ago.

luksy - You must have great teeth! Mine would have been long gone.. Fear of vomiting - Emetophobia - you're not alone.

Good Cook - I don't like to be in a car next to heights. It's back to that sealed in a car bridge thing...I think I may have died going off a bridge in a car at some point.

DJan - I heart Verced.

Pat - Water is one thing I'm drawn to -like a moth to a flame. I always think I'd have a chance if I could swim or float. Unless I was trapped in a car!!! See response to Good Cook above.

Nancy - No, I meant do it over and over in your mind. I do see your point. You may want to just stick with the meditation/visualization part of it until you feel ready to try it out. And if you never feel ready to do that then that's okay, too. I think sometimes we have to just love ourselves for who and what we are - phobias and all.

Alaine - Sounds perfectly understandable. Hopefully you have other ways to get into the City.

Nancy said...

Deborah - I'm not rational about going to the doctor at all, unfortunately. I just have a bit of understanding how the human operates - and it's very suggestible.

Hilary said...

Oops yes, I meant MRI - not cat scan.

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

wow - this fits right in with what's going on in my life. fear of the tests is what made me cancel my thallium stress test last year - and then told the doctor it was because ron was sick. he was, but not any worse than any other time in the last four years. but, with how i'd been feeling the past few weeks, i scheduled it and carried through with it. further tests next week...

i have a fear of spiders.
i have claustrophobia.
i can't stand tight clothing or clothing up around my neck (think that ties in with the claustrophobia thing).
i have a fear of being restrained (my brother tortured me when i was a child; you may think that is a strong word for sibling spats, but it really was torture).
i get anxiety attacks when my head is congested and i have trouble breathing. i just cannot breathe through my mouth during those times.
i am afraid of the dentist. i love "milk of amnesia" medicine.

does that make me a bigger basket case than the next person? nah...

i do wish that some of these fears would take a hike.

Phoebe Miriah said...

Go, Nancy! You did it!
I have a fear of having my blood drawn. Shots as well... I can handle tattoos and Novocaine, but seeing my blood being extracted and a needle penetrating my skin with liquid... Oh no.
I'm actually going next Thursday to have my blood drawn. Every night before I go to sleep I take a small sewing needle and practice how I will feel when it goes into my skin.
So far, my nerves are calm.
Maybe I should watch?
Look away?
Either way, I have to face my fear!

Natalie said...

rats. Even typing it makes me want to vomit.

Mental P Mama said...

Good for you! I had horrible panic attacks in my 20's. Luckily, I lived in NYC at the time and there was a lot of help for me....I still feel one rumbling around every once in a while, but focusing on the very moment always makes it dissipate. So glad you got that colonoscopy...especially with a family history. I had my first one this year--not so bad, right???

ρομπερτ said...

An outstanding entry of yours, which hopefully is read across the world.
And yes, this sounds like a fear I do call my own as well.
Please have a fine Friday.

daily athens

Reya Mellicker said...

You know, those tests are not preventative. They can sometimes catch diseases early on (though not always - for instance the medical community is in a big flap right now about mammograms which expose breasts to radiation but are not conclusive in terms of being definitive).

But none of those tests are preventative. Prevention includes eating well, getting enough sleep, exercise, fresh air, and AVOIDING STRESS.

I don't have insurance and therefore have had none of these tests. And I am a healthy, happy woman. I think we overtest, just because we can. My personal opinion is that the body doesn't really like to be invaded and have little bits of itself snipped off.

Yikes.

Cloudia said...

You are wise to be skeptical of how medicine is practiced, but wisdom is listening to your body and getting the care you do need. Best wishes!



Warm Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral
><}}(°>

d page said...

phobia: spiders (we have tarantulas, black widows, brown widows & scorpions on the back patio. EEEKKK)

healthy fear/distrust of modern medicine

Marguerite said...

I share your phobia of doctors and all things related, and fortunately, I have enjoyed excellent health and don't have to go to one, but about every 10 to 12 years, and then only for something minor. It's ironical because I have worked for them, for so long! I also have a fear of heights, knives, and lizards. I once read that phobias and the attached fears are possibly a carry over from a previous life, and the experiences in that life. It's an interesting theory.

Nancy said...

Hilary - MRIs are the worst!

Teresa - Not any more than I am, that's for sure.

Phoebe - I'm with you, I hate my blood drawn. Actually, I hate needles. Period.

Natalie - I can't say I love the little critters, not like, say, elephants or dolphins. :-)

Mama - No, not as bad as I thought. Glad you conquered your panic attacks. I also had one in my twenties - standing in lines! Yep, I would break out into a sweat standing in a line at the bank. I left the man I was with and they went away. I figured I was feeling trapped in real life and it played out when I was standing in lines.

Robert - You, too? Hmm, a fear of doctors seems to be a biggie.

Reya - I cannot disagree with anything you said. But they did find a polyp - which can turn into cancer. They removed it, but want to watch me because my uncle had a colostomy bag for the last five years of his life. I guess sometimes we have to go with what our little voice tells us to do. Otherwise, I believe in all the things you mentioned to take care of yourself - especially reducing STRESS.

Cloudia - That's how I felt.

dPage - Yipes! Those little brown ones scare me the most. I think we all have a distrust of modern medicine and Big Pharma.

Nancy said...

Marguerite - I also have worked for doctors and the medical field. But then I knew nurses that felt the same way. In fact, many of the nurses in my programs that gave flu shots never had one themselves. I would agree with the other live carryover - my fear of bridges and being trapped under water must have come from somewhere.

Shrinky said...

My 17yr old son who lives with autism has had a lifetime terror of anything medical (probably for good reason, as he was very ill as a baby, involving many intrusive tests and hospital stays). Thank goodness he is extremely healthy now, but I do live in dread of him needing medical treatment. He's a big lad, and literally will fight tooth and nail, refusing to set foot inside the door of any doctors surgery or hospital! His phobia extends to injury too, sparking a fully fledged panic attack if he witnesses an accident or so much as a cut finger. Yes, phobia's can be extremely debilitating, indeed. Well done bonny lass, on facing yours and riding through with it. I know it must be a huge relief for you to have it all behind you (no pun intended) now!

m. heart said...

Yes, flying, but I will defeat it to visit New Mexico and someday, India.

susan said...

I always knew it was time to work in a different medical specialty when I began to feel the symptoms of the current patients.

Seriously though, your method of dealing with your fear (real since a phobia is more or less irrational) is a good one. We walk ourselves through an experience step by step and come out the other side.. or not (none of us makes it out alive). On the way a good mantra is 'In this moment there is nothing to fear'.

susan said...

ps - I have a phobia about spiders; I fear going to the dentist.

Jayne Martin said...

I have things I don't like -- flying, for instance. I'm fearful, but I wouldn't call it a phobia.

And I've had two colonoscopies. The worst part is the prep the night before. At the actual procedure you get some really fine drugs. ;)

Nancy said...

Shrinky - I hope your son has very little to do with the medical industry in his life. I can totally relate to his terror.

m.heart - I'm not crazy about flying - especially over the ocean. But it doesn't keep me from going places if the opportunity arises. Thankfully! I've been to Mexico but not India. I would like to go to Italy, the UK, and New Zealand.

Susan - Thanks for the mantra. I've now adopted it! Spiders can be a little scary, and I really don't like going to the dentist, which I have to go to every three months after missing my cleanings for four years. That moving thing again...

Jayne - Yes, the Verced was wonderful. It would be nice each night before bed, don't you think?

leilani said...

The colon and the need to be tested ... yup thats it! OMG.. i cant even give them a sample, they keep giving me the envelope... im collecting them! =0I

Nancy said...

leilani - I have my own little collection of those envelopes. :-)

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow. You pegged it.

Linda Myers said...

Falling from a height. Airplane turbulence (probably related to falling from a height). Fear of the results of medical tests like colonoscopies and mammograms - even though I have them done faithfully.

Glad to know I'm not alone, though.

Nancy said...

Trish & Rob - I guess we all have them.

Linda - Waiting the results is just the worst. I'm always so relieved when they say I'm good to go.

California Girl said...

Really loud noises, like gunshots terrify me.