Fear of illness or nosophobia, like fear of death and madness, are ancestral, atavistic fears. Who among us is not afraid of suffering a serious illness? Are we not afraid to go crazy? Are not we afraid of death?
In this post we will talk about nosophobia. Nosophobia implies suffering an excessive and irrational fear of the disease. However, the person does not think that in the present he is sick. This is a crucial difference between nosophobia and hyponcondria.
Patients with hypochondria are not afraid of getting a disease in the future, like the nosophobic ones. Hypochondriacs are afraid of having it in the present and not being diagnosed.
What do we understand by phobia?
Phobias are defined as an intense and irrational fear towards a person, object or situation that involves little or no danger. The word comes from the Greek word fobos meaning ‘panic’. In Greek mythology, Phobos was also the son of Ares, god of war and Aphrodite, goddess of love. Personified fear. Alexander the Great prayed to Phobos before each battle to ward off fear.
According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual and the statistics of mental disorders), specific phobias, such as nosophobia, have the following characteristics:
- Fear or intense anxiety for a specific object or situation (eg, flying, heights, animals, administering an injection, seeing blood …)
- The object or phobic situation almost always causes fear or immediate anxiety.
- The phobic situation is actively avoided or resisted with fear or intense anxiety.
- Fear or anxiety is disproportionate if we analyze the real danger posed by the specific object or situation and the sociocultural context.
- Fear, anxiety or avoidance is persistent and lasts typically six or more months.
- Anxiety, fear or avoidance cause clinically significant discomfort or deterioration in the social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.
It is common for people to have multiple specific phobias; in fact, approximately 75% of people with specific phobia fear more than one situation or object. It is said that people with a phobic life have a characteristic shadow: the feeling of anguish.
Nosophobia or irrational fear of disease
As we said earlier, nosophobia can be defined as the irrational fear of suffering from a specific disease or any other condition in general. People with nosophobia develop an exaggerated fear of the disease and are often impressed by a particular case or disease.
The symptoms of nosophobia are usually diverse, but quite similar among those who suffer from this phobia. These symptoms are the following:
- Exaggerated nervousness before any minor infection.
- Extreme measures to avoid contact with germs.
- Frequent and repeated visits to different doctors, although they also avoid going to these.
- Intense fear of the doctor confirming the disease that the nosophobic has self-diagnosed.
The concern for health can be a dominant issue with manifestations at the cognitive level (frequent ruminations on the state of health). There are also frequent symptoms of emotional type (experience of anxiety or dysphoric mood in relation to fear) and behavioral (medical consultations not justified by the objective health status).
Anxiety about getting sick
Very often, nosophobia is classified as a disorder of somatic symptoms. However, in a minority of cases it is more appropriate to use the diagnosis of anxiety disorder because of illness instead.
Concern about the idea that one is ill is accompanied by considerable anxiety about health and illness. People with anxiety to get sick are easily alarmed with diseases. This happens when you hear that someone has become ill or when reading news about stories related to health.
As we said, nosophobia is a disorder close to hypochondria. In the nosophobic patient there is an irrational, intense and uncontrollable fear of suffering a serious illness in an indeterminate future. And it is that “he who fears suffering already suffers fear.”
In nosophobia, the emergence of a physical symptom causes an indefinite postponement of the doctor’s visit and the performance of tests. The nosophobic has such an intense fear of having to avoid any circumstance that can confirm it. The nosophobic prefers to close his eyes and live without knowing it.