Tomophobia: A Serious Phobia with Consequences
Does the thought of surgery put you off? Is even talking about Grey’s Anatomy a strict no?
Are you afraid of even setting foot in a medical facility? Or does the possibility of a surgical procedure make you nauseous and want to flee?
If you answered all the above questions with a yes, you most probably have tomophobia—a fear of surgical operations.
It may be difficult for you to explain why you can’t talk about medical movies or series, why you immediately flip the news on anything to do with accidents, or why you decline accompanying anyone to a hospital.
We feel you. And so do the 19 million US citizens who suffer from some form or other of phobia. You can take a look at the list of phobias to learn about some of the unusual phobias people are battling in their daily lives.
Also, don’t worry. There is no phobia that cannot be overcome with a little dedication and hard work. If you’ve just started experiencing symptoms, self-help alone can go a long way. If you’ve had this fear for awhile, there are therapists across the world who are dedicated to helping you return to a worry-free life.
What Is Tomophobia?
Tomophobia is the fear of surgical procedures or fear of surgery.
But everyone is afraid of surgeries, right? True. However, for those with tomophobia, even talking about shows that involve medical procedures can cause severe anxiety.
A phobia of medical procedures may be so intense that some refuse to even have themselves examined, let alone undergo a medical procedure.
Sometimes, those with tomophobia cannot even tolerate the sight of blood. They may faint, pass out, or run out of the room.
A 2009 case report detailed the case of a 69-year-old Caucasian man who refused to undergo an urgent medical intervention due to tomophobia. The authors mentioned that the cause of medical phobia might be attributeted to the increasing number of surgical interventions people undergo these days.
Because everyone has some amount of fear when it comes to medical procedures, tomophobia is often overlooked. However, the condition has received more attention after COVID-19. People who had avoided doctors for years were forced to face the medical system.
The exact cause of tomophobia is unknown; however, there are a few theories on how or why a person may have developed a fear of medical procedures.
It could have developed due to an experience with surgery or witnessing someone else going through one.
Developing specific phobias like tomophobia is common in people who have a genetic predisposition to anxiety disorders. If any of your family members had an anxiety disorder or phobia, the chances of you developing one get considerably higher.
So, what are the symptoms of tomophobia?
The most common symptom of tomophobia is fainting. However, along with it a person may experience a few or more other symptoms.
- Rapid heart rate
- Drop in blood pressure
- Fainting from pain or fear
- Chest tightening
- Shortness of breath
- Strong urge to flee from the situation
- Extreme anxiety
- Panic attacks
If tomophobia is affecting your daily life, there are several steps you can take to learn to manage the phobia.
Here are some treatment options you can try to overcome your fear of medical procedures.
When it comes to phobias, self-help can go a long way. The patient knows best about their feelings, triggers, and reactions. They see others undergoing major medical procedures and realize that their fears are irrational.
You can do several things to help yourself. You can join support groups where people talk about their journeys and how they overcame their fears.
Journal writing is another option. Journaling is beneficial for people with mental health issues. A journal will help you realize your fears and track your progress toward a healthier you.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and exercise go a long way in helping cope with anxiety and fear. These techniques calm your nerves, clear your thoughts, and help you think rationally.
You can also try gradually exposing yourself to the subject of your fear. Try watching medical dramas a little at a time.
If self-help isn’t working for you, turn to professional therapy. A professional will be able to correctly diagnose your condition and its severity and provide the required treatment.
Therapists often employ psychotherapy for the treatment of phobias. They may use one or more of the following methods to help you overcome your phobia:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Systematic desensitization or exposure therapy
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
In rare cases, medication may be prescribed for a short time until the patient responds to other therapies. Medications target severe symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Learning to Cope with Tomophobia
Tomophobia affects a person’s daily life. It prevents them from seeking necessary medical support, which increases their suffering further. Also, the most common symptom of tomophobia—fainting—can cause a person to fall and undergo further trauma.
A combination of self-help and professional therapy will help reduce your symptoms of anxiety. It will help you better cope with triggers and help you to lead a less stressful life.
Tomophobia can become the bane of your existence. However, you have the power to undo it.
Seek treatment today and live a healthier, happier life.