While worrying about your own health and not wanting to get sick is a normal and rational response given by the need to avoid pain and your own survival, when that preoccupation becomes excessive and irrational fear. we may be faced with a case of nosophobia.
Throughout this article we will talk about this exaggerated fear of contracting an illness; as well as the symptoms it presents, the causes and possible treatments to which the patient may be subjected.
What is nosophobia?
Nosophobia is classified under specific anxiety disorders and is characterized by causing the patient an exacerbated, irrational and uncontrollable fear of suffering or developing a fatal disease.
Although this is not always the case, nosophobia occurs more frequently in people work or context is closely linked to the world of illness or health, As well as among health science students. It is hypothesized that the reason for this higher incidence may be related to the imprint or impression that certain pathologies can cause in the mind of the person.
One of the hallmarks of people with nosophobia is that although for them any symptom could be a sign of a fatal disease, they avoid going to the doctor at all costs. The reason for finding in heightened fear of finding out that they have a dangerous or fatal condition, so they prefer to live without finding out.
In addition, these patients feel a complete aversion to the passage of time and the fact of having years. Because the older you are, the more likely you are to develop a fatal disease and the closer you are to death.
How to differentiate it from a regulatory fear?
It is quite normal to feel some fear of contracting or developing any type of disease, especially if it is fatal or poses a serious health risk; because it is an evolutionary reaction and follows a survival instinct. That is why it is so important to clarify the characteristics that distinguish a phobic fear from a habitual or normative fear.
The first difference is that the phobic fear is completely irrational, the person is unable to find a reasoning or a logical basis for the fear who feels and can even accept this irrationality but still cannot fight it.
The second characteristic of this type of disorder is that the fear felt is completely out of proportion to the actual threat that exists. Although today there is still the possibility of developing a fatal disease, the level of fear these people experience is excessive and exaggerated.
Finally, in phobic fears, the person is absolutely unable to control the fear felt. It means the person it cannot prevent sensations and feelings of anxiety from arising, As well as the intrusion of intrusive thoughts and beliefs that potentiate this anxiety.
Nosophobia and hypochondria: differences
While it is true that the two psychological disorders are related and that a hypochondriac person can develop nosophobia, certain traits differentiate each of the disorders.
The first of these, and the most distinctive, is that unlike a hypochondriac person, who suffers from nosophobia, does not believe they have developed the diseaseHe only feels a deep fear of doing it.
In addition, as mentioned above, a person suffering from hypochondria constantly goes to a health center in order to ratify his suspicions while in nosophobia it is avoided by all means to go to the doctor.
This is an avoidance mechanism with which the person can escape any risk of discovery of a fatal disease. In addition, people with nosophobia avoid contact with sick people, talking, reading, or watching films or documentaries that may be related to the illnesses.
Unlike people with hypochondriacs, who are engaged in finding or finding all possible information about a disease, in nosophobia it is better to ignore and ignore any of these topics for fear of being recognized.
What are the symptoms of this anxiety disorder?
Throughout the article, some of the characteristic symptoms of nosophobia have already been mentioned. However, it should be noted that since it is a specific anxiety disorder, there are many other symptoms related to this type of phobias.
As with other phobias, the clinical picture of nosophobia is divided into three sets: physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and behavioral symptoms. However, although most people experience the same symptoms, this phobia shows great variability between people.
In physical symptoms, the person experiences increased activity of the nervous system, Which results in symptoms such as high blood pressure, tachycardia, muscle tension or stomach pain, among others.
As for cognitive symptomatology, is distinguished by the presence of a number of irrational ideas and beliefs over the possibility of developing a life-threatening illness.
Finally, as mentioned in the previous point, the person also experiences a number of behavioral symptoms. In the specific case of nosophobia, the person tends to engage in avoidance behaviors such as not going to the doctor, avoiding medical examinations, and trying to stay away from any information or exposure related in any way. either to fatal diseases.
What are the causes?
Although it is very difficult to find the specific cause of a phobia, it is hypothesized that a genetic predisposition, coupled with the experimentation of highly traumatic experiences can lead to the development of phobias.
In the specific case of nosophobia, the experience of the death of a loved one or loved one due to a life-threatening illness may be enough to develop this phobia. In addition, being constantly exposed to environments or environments where death from illness is a common occurrence (hospitals, geriatrics, health centers) or being a student in any branch of health are also risk factors in the field of health. time to acquire this type of anxiety disorder.
Is there a treatment?
Fortunately, there are different psychological therapies that can help decrease the intensity of nosophobia symptoms to the point of disappearing. Cognitive restructuring intervention can promote the elimination of irrational thoughts and beliefs, which are the basis of this disorder,
Likewise, treatment by systematic desensitization, in which the patient is mentally and progressively exposed to feared thoughts or situations, accompanied by training in relaxation techniques are very effective when the person can regain his usual rhythm of life.