How To Cope With a Phobia—My Irrational Fear of Going to the Doctor

I have a deep-seated fear of going to the doctor. I would go as far as to describe it as a phobia that I have had from a very young age. I am completely unbothered by needles, but my fear of medical institutions as a whole send me reeling. Perhaps it started after I viewed “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?” which can only be described as a Charlie Brown Leukemia television special. Maybe I was hit especially hard by the tragedy that always seemed to strike the hospital on Grey’s Anatomy. I will never know for sure, but each time I smell disinfectant my blood runs cold.

Image result for morgan matthews screaming gif

As I have entered adulthood, my fear has become more of a problem. Whether or not to see a doctor is now very much in my control. I usually decide not to go. When I was at home over Christmas break my mother was surprised to find that I had been ignoring a pain in my collarbone since around Easter.

“What are you so afraid of?” She asked, incredulous.

“Death, mainly,” I responded.

She stared at me for a long time. Then, she made me set up an appointment.

I became unusually religious over the next week before my appointment with the orthopedic doctor.  I spent some time reading the Wikipedia page on the old testament in case entry to heaven ended up being structured around some sort of biblical quiz show situation. I envied the people who went about their days eating sandwiches and vacuuming without the specter that is death looming above them. I ate my sandwiches and vacuumed with Him at my side.

On the day of the appointment, I developed a stress-induced hive on my chest. I kept trying to pull up the neck of my shirt to cover it as I sat in the waiting room. The chairs around me were filled with high school athletes, nursing jacked knees and broken wrists. We all looked somber. They, because they were out for the season and could lose their scholarships. Me, because I was certain that I had weeks left to live.

When my name was called, I walked into the back of the office where I was x-rayed. Then I was put in a holding room to wait for the doctor. I texted my mother in fear immediately, wanting to know if this was normal procedure.

 “Of course an x-ray is routine. That’s how they look at the bone.”

“They didn’t tell me if everything was normal.”

“They don’t usually.”

“They did when I had to have that ultrasound in high school.”

“The only reason they did that was because you were an apoplectic ball of jam on the floor.”

The doctor finally came into my room fifty-five minutes later. He worked in a brisk no-nonsense way, prodding my collarbone. He ignored my hive.

“You’re having pain in your joint and it makes your bone protrude. This usually happens in the elderly and the pregnant. Come back if it gets worse.”

Then he left to go and glue an ACL back together or something of that nature. I had escaped another brush with the specter of death! I ate a Chick-fil-a sandwich on the way home without Him at my side.

Everyone has some kind of fear. I manage mine through a combination of strategic avoidance and dark humor. However, I am fully aware that managing and overcoming are two very different things. The truth is less funny. Anytime I need to go to the doctor my terror dominates my existence. Focusing on anything else feels impossible. I know that rather skirting around issues and making jokes to lessen their gravity, I should try to remember the facts. Studies show that if a person avoids medical attention and are eventually diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, their chances at survival decrease


I remind myself that phobias are not grounded in reality. As awful as fear can make us feel, it can be worse to let it get the better of us.


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