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Nosocomephobia: The Fear of Hospitals

Definition of Nosocomephobia or the fear of hospitals. This article provides information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of this phobia.

Nosocomephobia is an overwhelming, irrational fear of hospitals. The nosocomephobic individual may refrain from going to the hospital out of fear of contracting illness or disease. Some people coping with this phobia may associate hospitals with tragic illnesses, accidents, even death. In its extreme form, the person compromised with Nosocomephobia will avoid visiting loved ones who have been hospitalized and/or will refuse to attend medical appointments scheduled at the hospital.

Nosocomephobia derives from the Greek word “nosokemeion”, meaning hospital and “phobos” meaning fear.

What Causes Nosocomephobia?

As is the case with all phobias, the person suffering with Nosocomephobia has experienced some tragedy at some time in their life. That traumatic experience is then consistently and automatically associated with hospitals.

Maybe the nosocomephobic person has suffered a serious injury or illness that resulted in hospitalization. Perhaps this individual has personal knowledge of another person who was hospitalized and ultimately died. Maybe the person compromised by Nosocomephobia is sensitive to the antiseptic smell of hospitals or intensely squeamish around all the medical equipment in use at the hospital. Perhaps, this individual watched the negative and fearful reactions of others when confronted with having to go to hospital and simply learned to imitate that response.

Whatever the cause, the nosocomephobic individual can experience anxiety and emotional turmoil that is completely disruptive to their ability to function.

What Are the Symptoms of Nosocomephobia?

The symptoms of Nosocomephobia are individual and will vary from person to person. Some people, when confronted with their fear of hospitals, may begin to perspire, feel slightly uncomfortable or become nauseated. At the opposite end of the spectrum, other people are so severely compromised by this phobia, that they may experience crippling anxiety and/or panic attacks.

Other symptoms of Nosocomephobia may include:

  • A Dry Mouth
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Numbness
  • Heightened Senses
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling Dizzy
  • Muscle Tension
  • Hyperventilation
  • Trembling
  • Rapid Heartbeat
  • Feeling Out of Control
  • Feeling Trapped and Unable to Escape
  • Intense Feeling of Impending Disaster

How Is Nosocomephobia Diagnosed?

The vast majority of cases of Nosocomephobia are self-diagnosed. The individual realizes that their fear of hospital is irrational and is severely compromising their ability to function on a daily basis.

The nosocomephobic person may discuss their phobia with the primary physician. Rarely would the doctor diagnosis Nosocomephobia based on that initial discussion with the patient. More routinely, after ruling out any medical reason for this phobia, the doctor will refer the person to a mental health professional for comprehensive assessment and evaluation.

How Is Nosocomephobia Treated?

When the fear of hospitals becomes intense enough to disrupt an individual’s ability to function, there are a number of ways to treat Nosocomephobia.

These can include:

  • A referral from the primary physician to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of phobias.
  • Traditional “talk” therapy that will teach the person to recognize and control their phobia.
  • Hypnotherapy.
  • Exposure Therapy.
  • Self-help techniques such as purposeful muscle relaxation.
  • Support groups with other people who are coping with this specific phobia.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Desensitization Therapy.
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
  • In severe cases of Nosocomephobia, anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed.

Nosocomephobia is an intense, irrational fear of hospitals. Sometimes that fear can become so overwhelming as to completely halt a person’s ability to function on a daily basis. Unchecked, Nosocomephobia can become a debilitating condition that interferes with an individual’s personal life, their social life and job responsibilities. Untreated, Nosocomephobia can have a devastating impact on every aspect of a person’s life.

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  1. Sounds like a another severe case of “selfishness, ” again. The only thing the person can think of is themselves when a “loved” one might be suffering in the hospital. These people don’t experience love nor compassion. Like most fears, it’s all about them. I hope when they have to go to the hospital, NOBODY visits.

  2. Angel- Are you KIDDING ME?? My husband is a loving, caring, smart man who has a normal life, job, family- But he is crippled with Nosocomephobia- it is so severe that he had to miss the birth of our children because of it.. When confronted with the thought of hospitals he shakes, has panic attacks and has passed out at times.. This is not a case of being selfish- It is a real disease with real consequenses.. Think before u write..

  3. Thank you Wrong1 for pointing out the facts of this phobia from a personal perspective. I totally agree with you.

  4. Angel,
    I really can’t believe you said that. I have this fear and am now about to face the birth of my first child. I am not worried about visiting someone else, which I usually FORCE myself to do out of respect, but I am worried about what they are going to do to me. I am having my baby in a hospital for the sake of my baby, not for mine because I wouldn’t go to the hospital for anything wrong with me. How is that selfish?? I am having to face my fear for someone elses sake. Obviously you are the one without compassion, because you have no idea how bad this is. You don’t have to have the nightmares or the panic attacks or the heart palpatations from it. No you just live your life like no one else on the planet hurts. Just because no one visited you in the hospital doesn’t mean you should downplay someone elses disorder.

  5. Thank you wow for your honesty. The best to you and your new baby.

  6. Tammy,
    my mother suffers the same case, and to be true, i also used to think it’s a totally selfish behaviour! i never thought that someone may suffer phobia towards hospitals, but when i discussed the matter with my professor he explained her case to me and he asked me to conduct a research about it!
    i don’t want to copy-paste your owesome work, so how about giving me a hand in this?

    RAK_83@hotmail.com this is my email
    please help me it’ll be highly appreciated!

  7. Trying to Learn,

    I would suggest reading absolutely everything you can about this phobia. You will learn. I’m also thinking that perhaps talking to your mother may give you a better insight than any “traditional” kind of research might.

    Good luck to you.

  8. On Friday last week, I had to go have an angiogram and a stent put into my heart. I knew if I didn’t do it I would die so I forced myself to go. I didn’t realize that I was so scared of this until I started trying to talk my husband into letting me cancel. I was so scared of what would happen that I wouldn’t be able to control that I even refused sedation during the procedure. After spending 6 hours flat on my back afterward I found out my dr wanted me to stay overnight. I couldn’t do it. As soon as they said I could get up and walk I left AMA. I have a first rate Dr and I know the care I got there would have been great, but I just couldn’t do it. I got up and came home where I felt safe.

  9. Jo, I’m not sure that what you’ve experienced would classify as a phobia. You were frightened and wanted to feel safe. Bless you and here’s all hope for your speedy and complete recovery.

  10. ‘Wow’, I think you have hit the nail on the head. As far as I am concerned, Nosocomephobia is a RATIONAL FEAR of hospitals (especially if you have had the experiences I have had). I’m not scared in the slightest to visit people in hospital, nor even for my son to be treated in hospital because I consider myself able-bodied enough to protect him, and ensure he is well cared for. But I am scared to death of being a patient and losing control. When i had my son in hospital i told them about my phobia caused from previous bad experiences, and I was still treated appaulingly, to the extent that all my worst fears came true. I was scared for my safety and my son’s safety as I was injected with drugs I declined. I was vunerable, held down as they stitched me up with insuffient pain relief as they told me I was lying that it hurt. They took my son out of sight and I couldn’t get to him – he was the only person on my mind. Exactly how was I being selfish Angel? Thankfully I’m overcoming my mistrust of NHS doctors because I had private health care, but no provider in the UK will cover you for childbirth, because it’s not an illness! Funny that because I thought Nosocomephobia was?

  11. This is interesting to read! My boyfriend has something similar, although I would say it’s more a fear of sick people and things that have something to do with that. It is worst when it comes to broken bones etc.
    Before I met him, his mom was in the hospital with a broken collarbone. He tried to visit, but several times he just passed out right in front of the main entrance, and he hadn’t even been inside yet!!
    He doesn’t really experience it as a fear, but he feels very uncomfortable. He mentioned symptoms like a lot of pressure on the head, dry mouth, dizzyness en eventually passing out, and nausea afterwards.
    I tried to get him used to the hospital-environment by just randomly walking around in a hospital with him. That went ok for a while, although there were not many sick people around he did feel uncomfortable. But when we visited my grandma after she broke her hip, he passed out again. And one time he had hurt his foot and it needed to be taped in at the small practice of the familiy doctor. There was no other patient around, living-room like carpet on the floor, just a nice relaxed athmosphere i would say. The taping went ok, but when he needed to change our adress at the small reception, his face was grey and he needed to go outside again. After talking to himself that he shouldn’t be such a big sissy, he tried to go inside again but failed, and eventually he passed out on the sidewalk… I tried to find out why he suffers from this, but there hasn’t been anything traumatic in his life.

    Maybe bit of a long story, but this is a real problem for us. We don’t need to go to hospitals nowadays, but our parents are getting older as well, and I’m worried that he won’t be able to visit them if it’s necessary. Is there anyone that can recommend some kind of therapy? There is not much to find on the internet unfortunately :(

  12. Ever since I was young child I’ve always been prone to getting sick to my stomach, lightheaded, flushed, etc, when either listening or viewing nearly anything medical, and the same often applies to when loved ones or friends have been in hospitals, I go flush, blood rushes to my head and I pass out; I’m perfectly fine, however If I’m the patient, or it’s a field I can deal with, like neurology. At age 28, it’s quite pleasant to know that I’m not alone in this regard; albeit the variation to which isn’t proscribed in the defining of Nosocomephobia, is a bit disheartening. Whenever I feel an episode coming on, I have to seek out an ice cold object to put against either my forehead or the back of my neck to abate the episode partially; and the saddest thing is I’ve been training to be psychotherapist, and I cannot think of a means of negating this phobia, other than going about and placing myself into situations which dredge up the physiological reactions. I’ve tried experimenting, and all to no avail; perhaps a few sessions of hypnotherapy may do the trick, with intermittent trips to hospitals or medical discussions to test the effective nature of the hypnotherapy.

  13. Wow, everyone. I have some form of Nosocomephobia. only is it really nosocomephobia? i have the fear of surgery, but surgery takes place ina hospital or clinic of some sort. do i really have nosocomephobia or is it something else?

  14. i cant believe other people have this, i mean people look at me when i say i’m afraid of hospitals, funny thing is i love to watch horror movies cause of the thrills, ghosts dont bother me that much i’m interested in them but hospitals, whenever i read the word hospital in another language i’m learning or write it down i feel fear, i cant believe angel would say that, so if someone was claustrophibic you’d say i hope they get locked in a tight compartment and no one rescues them what an ass
    but i’m ok with the 1st floor and sick people cause i kinda like studying about diseases and all, but surgery that is the worst, not only that the first and second floors are ok but above that……i’d scream and run like crazy, its not the doctors, the diseases, but the MACHINES!!! holy crap the beds, tools, the beeping thing the air pump and imagine sleeping there with a ghost at the end of the room you cant move youre helpless you can die any moment, although i have to admit the rooms you rest in arent that bad hook up an xbox to the tv it’ll all be fine
    i think my fears came from the movie my sisters watched when i was six which i remember vividly was the haunted house on the haunted hill and that cutscene was scary, sick music videos with blood allover the carts and him dying i cant believe people watch this crap, dead space chapter 2 and 5 (game), silent hill, kizu the testing place the japanese had in ww2 in harbin china, how the north koreans perform their techniques nowadays with blood allover the board ting i dont want to type out the name, pepole dying in ambulances, my mom had stones like 10 years ago but shes fine now, haunting in connecticut movie, some korean murderer movie i forgot the name, basically these things creep me out and i’m only 16
    actually i can go in rooms like the icu cause theres lots of dudes but theres just too many rooms i cant go in without freaking out
    i guess other than the some certain rooms and going alone around a hospital, i think its the fear of being a patient i mean youre trapped ironically i read alot about medical stuff and its so easy to remember so being a doctor wouldnt be hard but i cant cause of hospitals, and no i’m not afraid of the sharp objects cause i like cooking and knives dont bother me

  15. Wow Angel, what a horrible person you are. I have a terrible fear of hospitals and clinics, and have almost passed out before. I come out shaking, sweating and feeling sick (and I go in because I have to!). My father, stepfather and other family members all died in not very nice hospital wards in not very nice ways, the doctors I have seen there (bar one wonderful man who saved my opinion of them) were all horrible, and that’s what’s contributed to my fear. I hate those places, but I can force myself to go see my loved ones if they are admitted because I know it might be the last time I see them. Some people though just can’t cope like that, and no one is in any place to judge them and their feelings if they can’t go in to visit someone. Least of all some moron like you.

  16. Angel, I kmow you posted more than a year ago but would love to see how things turned out for you as I am 29 weeks and have the same diseae amd wish I could deliver at home because od m gear:b thanks so much

  17. AngelI know you posted more than a year ago but would love to see how things turned out for you as I am 29 weeks and have the same disease and wish I could deliver at home because od m gear:b thanks so much

  18. Hey! You have no right even if you have this – Everyone has the respect to an oppinon and a story so don’t go bashing because you wouldn’t want somebody to say that to you.

  19. Actually Angel , screw you it has nothing to do with selfishness! You have no right to brutally critisise something you don’t understand. A phobia is a phobia regardless of what the phobia is you as a person must respect the phobias of others.

    Think before you write , imagine if you had an anxiety attack EVERY time you passed a hosipital or even got close to the enterance. Forrtunately the only time I’ve ever spent a night in a hospital or been “hospitalised” was the day I was born. I can’t stand hospitals and I thought I was alone in this respect , but I’m happy to know I’m not alone on this.

  20. Actually Angel , screw you it has nothing to do with selfishness! You have no right to brutally critisise something you don\’t understand. A phobia is a phobia regardless of what the phobia is you as a person must respect the phobias of others.

    Think before you write , imagine if you had an anxiety attack EVERY time you passed a hosipital or even got close to the enterance. Forrtunately the only time I\’ve ever spent a night in a hospital or been \”hospitalised\” was the day I was born. I can\’t stand hospitals and I thought I was alone in this respect , but I\’m happy to know I\’m not alone on this.

  21. Actually Angel , screw you it has nothing to do with selfishness! You have no right to brutally critisise something you dont understand. A phobia is a phobia regardless of what the phobia is you as a person must respect the phobias of others.

    Think before you write , imagine if you had an anxiety attack EVERY time you passed a hosipital or even got close to the enterance. Forrtunately the only time Ive ever spent a night in a hospital or been hospitalised was the day I was born. I cant stand hospitals and I thought I was alone in this respect , but Im happy to know Im not alone on this.

  22. I have it I feel dizzy and vomit and pass out dry mouth everything it all started when I visted my mom in hospital at a young age she passed away and since then I’m even scared to visit people in hospital I sweat heavily and have to get out every two minutes I’m glad I know what it is now! And angel think before you talk surely I wouldn’t be that selfish to not want to see my family in hospital grow up and watch your mouth

  23. I developed a fear of the hospital after a terrible experience I had last year. I broke my wrist and went into the hospital for surgery. While in the hospital, I had a problem with my blood pressure and had to stay there 2 days. They gave me at last 8 or 10 medications so that the blood pressure would go down (it didn’t). They gave me Xanex to calm me down and I felt like I was going to go off the deep end. God only knows how much medication I was given. The nurses were very mean to me and this made it worse. I felt like if I didn’t get out I was going to die.

    My mother died in this hospital several years ago and I couldn’t keep this out of my mind. It’s possible that a medical error or something they did caused her death. This hospital has had errors which resulted in people dying who shouldn’t have died. This has increased my fear of this hospital.

    Finally I went home. The next day I felt really sick but didn’t call the doctor because I didn’t want to go back to the hospital. I later found out that all the medicine they gave me could have caused serious complications or even death.

    I can drive by the hospital without fear. However, just the thought of going in makes my blood pressure and heart rate soar. I haven’t been back since my surgery which was in May of 2011.

    Since this time, I’m afraid to go to any doctor and fear that they will take my blood pressure and then insist that I go to the hospital or even force the issue.

    I do go to doctors but I’m so afraid that my blood pressure which I have problems with will go out of control in their office and then I will be forced to go to the hospital. This fear is irrational since my blood pressure is controlled by medication.

    Just the thought of going to any hospital causes anxiety for me. The thought of going to the hospital where my mother died causes my heart rate to soar. I’m afraid that if I go to the hospital that I will die or something terrible will happen to me.

    Family and friends can’t understand why I have this fear. They tell me I need to calm down and take a deep breath. I’m glad to know that others have the same fear as others seem to think I’m the only one. Thank you for listening to me.

  24. Dont know if i have this. If i go in to a doctor or dentist’s surgery i start shaking and cant stop, and if im in there longer than 10mins i start hysterically laughing. I know its stupid and i feel so embarrassed about it but i cant do anything about it. I’ve had this happen ever sonce i had a load of bloodtests done.

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