by 105 student
Yesterday, after being told by health services that I would have to go to the emergency room due to an allergic reaction, I immediately started to get nervous and cry and I started to have a panic attack. I could see that my heart rate was drastically increasing because I was hooked up to a monitor at the time. As someone who suffers from Panic Disorder, having panic attacks are not that uncommon. However, due to the fact that I take klonopin to prevent panic attacks, I was surprised by how quickly the onset of my panic attack was at the mere mention of a hospital. It was as though the idea of a hospital was a trigger.
Once I got home, I decided to research what had caused my panic attack. It turns out that there is a specific phobia called Nosocomephobia which is a fear of hospitals. It is a specific phobia, which is particularly difficult given that one would already be upset about their illness or injury which is causing them to go to the hospital in the first place. Nosocomephobia can induce panic attacks which, include symptoms such as shortness of breath, a pounding heart, dizziness, nausea, a feeling of being disconnected from the world and from oneself, and generally a dread that one is losing control and is going to die. [For more about panic attacks, see the post Be afraid, be very afraid.]
While researching I came across the point that most likely, the fear of hospitals is actually a protective mechanism for the individual because of some traumatic event in ones past that involved a hospital. I then realized that, ironically, the last time I had been hospitalized was for my most intense panic attack! At that time, I had no idea what was wrong with me and no doctor had even entertained the idea that what I had was panic disorder. They had assumed that I was feeling these symptoms because of low blood sugar and stress. Clearly, not knowing what was going on with me caused even more anxiety, as one of the main problems for people who suffer from panic disorder is a general need to feel in control, though not necessarily to actually be in control.
I’ve concluded that the panic attack I experienced yesterday was most likely due to nosocomephobia. I associate hospitals with panic attacks, and for people with panic disorder, it is quite often the fear of having a panic attack that will actually cause a panic attack. My fear of hospitals, while it may seem counterproductive, is actually my body trying to avoid a negative situation. It is as if it is saying, “I’ll attach a fear to hospitals in order to steer clear of bad situations and to be safe.”
For me, I believe that I can overcome my fear of hospitals by continuing to take klonopin and to address this issue with my psychiatrist. Many people are prescribed benzodiazepines such as klonopin for their specific phobias. However, there is a variety of other treatment options for those who suffer from nosocomephobia. One such treatment is Systematic Desensitization. Patients are desensitized to their specific fear through the use of virtual reality or imagery exercises. Another treatment is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This also involves a gradual desensitization to one’s fear. In this type of therapy, the patient learns to understand his or her pattern of negative thoughts, and ways to break this cycle. A third option is Hypnotherapy. Hynotherapy tries to reprogram the parts of your subconscious associated with your fear. Hypnotherapy is part of study or practice known as Neuro-Linguistic Practice, or NLP. It is the study of how we create our reality, and holds the viewpoint that a phobia is the result of malfunctioning “programs” that you have created in your brain. NLP finds and “re-programs” these constructs. Through hypnotherapy and NLP, Nosocomephobia can often be greatly reduced or even eliminated.