Fear of developing diseases: complications it can cause in the health. With the expansion of the Coronavirus outbreak, the fear of getting sick has increased socially. Many people, who did not concern themselves with this issue before, had nosophobia symptoms. This fear helps us set the safety limits but ends up exceeding and conditioning at all levels in the person, even when there is no type of risk.
In this article, you can learn what nosophobia is and discover how to overcome the fear of diseases to continue with your life without any worries.
A fear that has increased
Nosophobia consists of a recurring and persistent fear of contracting a specific disease. It is not the generalized fear that would appear in hypochondria, but rather that the person directs it towards something specific. This happens because you have certain illnesses in your life or something that is happening around you. The fact that there is currently an outbreak of Covid-19 causes this type of phobia to increase, oriented towards that specific disease.
Fear aims at contracting the disease and suffering it and dying, which is why it links to pathologies where life can be in danger, and there are real cases of it. Even if the person did not fall within that risk group, for example, no one would indeed be safe, so they would anchor themselves to that little possibility so that their fear would grow.
The fear of getting sick leads us to obsessive behaviors that would cover multiple areas, such as eating, sports, social contact, or daily tasks. The person lives in constant alert and controls the possibilities of contamination very well, however remote they may be.
Differences with hypochondria
Hypochondria is characterized by constantly focusing on the body and its signals, misinterpreting them, and explaining that one suffers from a disease that no one can diagnose. This produces high anxiety that would make those symptoms increase.
It does not orient to any disease, but we can identify body signals, and from there, a possible disease is deduced, depending on where you see those same signals. On the contrary, nosophobia is the fear of becoming ill due to a specific pathology. The person does not think that they are already ill, as is the case with hypochondria, but they do not want to contract it and they live with that concern.
Both produce very high anxiety that could become disabling, with obsessive thoughts of an intrusive nature. They feel they cannot control their fear and that something bad will happen to them. They generate great suffering to those who suffer it, and it conditions their entire lives.
What are the symptoms of nosophobia?
The fear of getting sick has specific signs that make the simple fear turn into a phobia. It must be taken into account that a specific disease can scare us if we have seen it in a family member or society, so it may be reasonable that for a time, we are in a state of alert and placing more security barriers. However, this fear of getting sick would lead to added symptoms.
The following symptoms are those suffered by a person with nosophobia:
Symptoms on a physical level, Fear of developing diseases
Like any anxiety or phobia, it has a series of characteristic symptoms related to physical agitation. Tachycardia, sweating, headaches, and stomachaches, or appetite and sleep disturbances appear. They are not always constant and can appear punctually throughout the day, but intense.
Cognitive and emotional symptoms, Fear of developing diseases
The predominant emotion is fear, with a whole system of thoughts around it. There are circular and obsessive thoughts that appear recurrently and are very difficult to eradicate. When they are tried to avoid, they seem to increase. Obsessive ideas do not always have a real foundation.
Behavioral symptoms, Fear of developing diseases
When we fear something, we look for a way to avoid it and run away from it to make it disappear. We avoid doing related activities or not facing them. However, any avoidance strategy only makes the fear increase and generalize. What could previously be fear of illness due to physical contact, for example, ends up causing us not to touch anyone. Later, this fear increases, and we stop approaching other people until we limit more and more areas, while the fear only increases.
Causes of fear of getting sick
Like the rest of the phobias, nosophobia finds its cause in a combination of different external and internal factors. Among the external factors, we can find various experiences that may have conditioned a person to try to avoid similar stimuli due to their traumatic characteristics. In this case, having experienced an illness or near-death or being related to a health context in which persistent illnesses are seen may have conditioned the person.
On the other hand, among the internal factors, certain genetic or biological characteristics can make some people more prone to suffering from phobias.
How to face the fear of sickness?
To deal with fear, we can start with these two basic guidelines:
The first thing is to recognize that fear is a normal response in all human beings, since it is an emotion that allows us to survive by pushing ourselves to distance ourselves or to fight with everything that represents a threat (for example, if there is an obvious catastrophe such as a possible fire or flood, it is time to be alert and look for the means to get to safety).
2. Regulate emotions
Being aware of our emotions and their subjective responses to a certain degree will help us identify the stimuli of each one of them (how each one of us experiences fear “we move away or try to be in control of every detail”). Although we are afraid, we try to exercise control, although we are not aware that this makes things worse.
How to overcome the fear of diseases?
As with virtually all mental disorders, there is no silver bullet or correct therapy that can guarantee that you can overcome this irrational fear of illness. The human psyche is very complex and depends largely on the patient and their own history, which will be the most optimal therapy.
Unlike other phobic disorders, the patient cannot be confronted in a selective and controlled way with the stimulus that provokes fear and teaches the brain that the fear is unfounded. Since the body itself is something that the patient always carries with them.
It is commonly suggested that nosophobes engage in hypnotherapy to relativize their relationship to illness and to give them the ability to lead a happier life. Because nosophobia causes an almost permanent state of stress, techniques like sophrology can be helpful, or even meditative practices like yoga and Tai Chi.
Phobias associated with nosophobia
- Fear of colds: rhinophobia.
- Fear of osteoarthritis: arthrophobia.
- Fear of heart disease: cardiophobia.
- Fear of an upset stomach: gastralgofobia.
- Fear of kidney stones: nephrophobia.
- Fear of mouth diseases: stomatophobia.
- Fear of cancer: carcinophobia.
- Fear of being tired: kopofobia.
- Fear of drugs: pharmacophobia.
- Fear of being operated on: tomophobia.
- Fear of having a toothache: odontophobia.
- Fear of skin diseases: dermatophobia.
- Fear of ear diseases: otalgophobia.
- Fear of vomiting: emetophobia.
The best option to seek relief from the symptoms of nosophobia and reduce the levels of anxiety generated by this disorder is to consult with a psychologist who can provide a first correct diagnosis, to later give the patient the appropriate therapy to reduce the outbreaks of hypochondria related to nosophobia.
Fear of developing diseases: Conclusions
Fear is an adaptive emotion that has a key function: to protect us. Therefore, it is logical that fear activates in the face of diseases to help us avoid them and, thus, survive. However, sometimes fear begins to be dysfunctional. That is, it is so strong that instead of helping us survive; it paralyzes us and creates a discomfort that prevents us from continuing with our life normally.
The good news is that with these tips to overcome the fear of disease, you can continue with your life normally and make sure you are as healthy as possible.