How do I Overcome a Fear of Illness?

Sheri Cyprus

Although it's not always easy to overcome a fear of illness, it can be done. Hypochondriasis, the medical name for the fear of becoming ill, often causes a person to worry excessively and obsessively about developing a disease. The problem may cause the hypochondriac to either visit doctors constantly or be so embarrassed about having a fear of illness, that he or she may avoid necessary visits to physicians. If you are afraid of becoming ill and it is negatively affecting your life, you may be able to overcome this fear by applying a few simple, yet important, steps.

Hypochondriasis causes a person to worry excessively about developing a disease.
Hypochondriasis causes a person to worry excessively about developing a disease.

First, you will need to realize that you have a problem. Do research about hypochondriasis and how to overcome it. One thing you should refrain from doing is researching different medical conditions and diseases. This activity is likely to make the hypochondriac imagine he or she has a serious illness no matter how rare the disease may be. An important thing to do is find out from your health care provider, or other source, the list of exams and tests you should have done; you can then write the dates in your calendar and focus on these as proper ways of monitoring your health.

Doctors may refer a patient suffering from hypochondriasis to an experienced psychologist for help.
Doctors may refer a patient suffering from hypochondriasis to an experienced psychologist for help.

Second, develop healthy eating and exercise habits. Rather than checking yourself constantly for disease symptoms, create a healthy living plan to help you actually avoid many of the risks associated with disease. By knowing that you're eating healthier foods, it can at least ease your mind partially about a fear of illness. Consider taking up healthy fitness activities. Engaging in a new sport you love may not only give you greater peace of mind in knowing that you're lessening your risk of disease by being fit, but also help you enjoy life more.

Third, as you try to keep to your schedule of necessary medical tests and exams, write down any questions you have before you go. Doing this can help you focus on rational topics rather than irrational fears. Try to find understanding medical professionals. Communicate that you do have a fear of illness, but are trying to overcome the problem.

Chances are, if you confess you're trying to overcome being a hypochondriac, doctors will be much more willing to keep you in the know about your state of health so you don't worry unnecessarily. If you spend a few months trying to overcome your hypochondriasis, but don't seem to be showing any improvement, then you should ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist for help. Look for a psychologist experienced in treating people with health phobias such as fear of illness.

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Discussion Comments


@KoiwiGal - That is more likely to be another kind of disorder I think. Like Munchhausen syndrome where people will lie about themselves or their children being sick in order to get attention from medical professionals.

I think a person with genuine fear of illness isn't going to lie to a doctor. They honestly want to get well. What might happen, unfortunately, is that they may make themselves sick simply by believing that they are sick. The body is a lot more responsive to the mind than we realize and it will start to manufacture symptoms if people believe they should be having them.

That's not really lying, but it doesn't exactly help with a diagnosis either, and it doesn't help the patient to realize that it is all in their mind.


@Fa5t3r - The problem with that is that one of the symptoms of anxiety disorders is that you have a hard time trusting people. And it might take months before you really feel like you can trust your psychiatrist. I mean, they are going to be telling you that you aren't sick and that you don't need to go to the doctor all the time, or research illness. It's not difficult to see why a person who believes they might be ill would have trouble trusting someone who insists that they aren't. In their mind, it would make much more sense to simply lie to the doctors.


I would make sure that you've got a decent psychiatrist who understands what you need for the treatment of anxiety before I would approach any doctors. They can be leery about hypochondriacs because they've had to deal with them before and it can take up a lot of time. Some doctors think the best approach is to refuse treatment altogether.

If you have a psychiatrist who can help deal with the doctors that is going to be a lot easier to manage.

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