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HomeMental HealthThe Fear of Having a Disease — Talkspace

The Fear of Having a Disease — Talkspace

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Finding Treatment for Nosophobia

Nosophobia can be diagnosed when anxiety about developing a disease detracts from quality of life.If you think that you or a loved one has nosophobia, contact your primary healthcare provider and schedule an appointment. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who understands nosophobia and can accurately diagnose you.

Therapy has proven quite successful for people with nosophobia. A therapist will utilize various techniques to help alleviate the symptoms you experience. Exposure therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are the two most common. In some cases, medication can help too.

“Having an intense fear of developing an illness or disease can impact your daily life and functioning. Talking with a therapist helps you learn strategies to manage those fears of the unknown. A mental health professional can support you with identifying and shifting unhelpful thoughts so that you can work towards regaining a sense of calm and safety in your life.”

Talkspace therapist Liz Kelly, LICSW

Exposure therapy 

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Exposure therapy helps you face what you fear in an environment where you know you’re safe. Your therapist will begin by teaching you coping skills to help you stay in control when thoughts about developing a disease strike you. With exposure therapy, you’ll learn meditation and relaxation techniques that help to calm your thoughts, manage your symptoms, and reduce the frequency of new symptoms developing. Gradually, you’ll find your tolerance increases as you intensify the exposure. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT utilizes various methods to teach you to recognize your irrational fears and thoughts as they develop, whether it’s nosophobia, autophobia, or atychiphobia. This type of therapy helps us look at how our thoughts impact our feelings, which impact our behaviors. You’ll then learn to challenge those unhealthy thoughts with rational, more productive ones. If we can work on changing our automatic negative thoughts, we can ideally change how we feel and what we do.

Reframing irrational fear and putting it into perspective can be very helpful for people with various other anxiety-based disorders, as well. Online cognitive behavioral therapy for nosophobia may include elements of exposure therapy as well.

Medication

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There are no medications known to effectively treat specific phobias. However, some drugs can be helpful for certain people when used along with cognitive behavior therapy or exposure therapy, and other self-help tools like meditation, yoga, and exercise. For example, beta-blockers or benzodiazepines might help.

  • Beta-blockers can prevent blood pressure from spiking as well as help you maintain a consistent and healthy heart rate. 
  • Benzodiazepines induce mild sedative effects that can help keep the mind calm during periods of anxious stimulation. Benzos, as they’re known, should only be used with caution and under strict supervision as they’re known to be addictive. For this reason, they’re only typically used as a very short-term solution. 

Fearing sickness and disease is natural. Almost everyone finds they do it at one time or another. This has become especially true with the plethora of medical information we have access to via the Internet. It’s OK to be curious and research sickness and diseases.

However, if your research into a specific disease gets to the point where it’s affecting your daily life, consider speaking with a therapist who understands what you’re going through. Some studies have shown that phobia therapy success rates are very high. Even if you’re experiencing an intense fear of disease, know that you’re not alone on your journey to healing. 

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