What is iatrophobia?
Iatrophobia is an extreme fear of doctors and medical tests. Upwards of 1 in 3 people in North America avoid going to their doctor even when they may need medical care. Covid-19 has increased the number of people who experience iatrophobia due to the risks of virus exposure, tests for Covid and mask mandates. Although I do not have a fear of doctors or medical tests, I do experience anxiety in medical situations from far too many instances of being made to feel like a hypochondriac. I’m sure most women who suffer from endometriosis have felt this way too. From the age of 11 until I was finally was diagnosed at 30, I was told that my pain was; in my head, that I was constipated, I was weak and exaggerating my period cramps, I was told I had IBS, that I missed periods because I was too athletic, and my all-time favorite in my 20’s: sexual intercourse was painful because I was nervous and I should have a few glasses of wine to relax!
A sidekick to my endometriosis was polycystic ovarian syndrome, and because of my history with them, they nearly caused my death ten years ago on Mother’s Day. After a day and evening of excruciating pain from what I thought was another grapefruit sized ovarian cyst I finally told my husband to rush me to the hospital. By the time we arrived at the hospital at 2am the pain was as intense as active labor pain, far worse than I had ever felt. The doctor was pleasant, he looked at my chart and saw I had a history of endometriosis and PCOS and said nothing could be done until there was someone available to conduct an ultra-sound at 9 or 10 am. Pain meds were given, and I was told that due to my medical history that I likely had another cyst. After a few hours I insisted that my pain was different, I was very weak and that I was frightened for my life. Again, I was told I nothing could be done, and that I could have more pain meds in a few hours’ time. By 9am I had to call my husband back into the hospital because I felt I was dying. Finally, after an excruciating ultrasound in which the radiologist said I was full of fluid but didn’t know what it was I was sent back down to emergency. It wasn’t until my blood pressure dropped dangerously low and I started to seizure that I was finally taken seriously. My body was septic, my appendix had likely burst the day before and my abdominal cavity was full of infection. They nearly lost me in surgery, and I spent a week in the hospital recovering.
I survived that day, but that was just one of the many instances of why I have a fear/anxiety of doctors and hospitals. I’m not fearful that I will be hurt, my fear is that my voice won’t be heard, and a fear of being made to feel like a hypochondriac.
Although I’ve had many instances of having my symptoms being dismissed, and me being dangerously sick before seeking medical assistance, gratefully in the past 5-6 years I’ve had a wonderful family doctor and a gynecologist with whom I can trust and feel heard.
That’s why I started ActivKare, I want people to feel “heard” so we can help them, and if we can’t help them, we will find someone that will. Compassion, empathy, and trust, it’s a simple business model.