Why I’m Scared of Hospitals

Nosocomephobia is an intense fear of hospitals. It’s a type of anxiety disorder that can cause symptoms and panic attacks.15 Feb 2022

When I was a little girl, I had a hard time distinguishing between hospitals and jails. 

(I also had a hard time distinguishing between God and Santa Claus, and my headteacher and Margaret Thatcher. It was a confusing time for me.)

To me, these were both places you were taken against your will, and then not allowed to leave until someone said you could. You were separated from your family, who were only allowed to see you at certain times, and forced to sleep in communal bedrooms, with a bunch of complete strangers. 

The fact that hospitals were supposed to HELP you, and jails were… not… didn’t matter to me. They were more or less the same thing, and I was – and still am – absolutely terrified of being incarcerated in either. 

There are lots of reasons to dislike hospitals, obviously. In fact, I can’t imagine there are many people out there who actively LIKE them. 

For me, though, I think it’s mostly about the loss of control. The fact that, once you’re admitted, you’re no longer a free agent, with total bodily autonomy, but under the control of doctors and nurses who are there to help you, of course, but who still have the ability to carry out painful and invasive procedures – or even to render you unconscious with general anesthetic, which is another lifelong fear of mine. 

That’s all a very histrionic way of looking at it, of course. I should say here that I’m perfectly aware that what I’ve just written above isn’t totally accurate. I know, for instance, that medical procedures aren’t carried out without the patient’s consent, and that you CAN, technically, discharge yourself if you want to. Knowing this, however, doesn’t change my horror at surrendering control over my body and surroundings to someone else. 

Not only am I terrified of medical procedures and the loss of control that comes with them, however. as a shy introvert, the loss of privacy is also a huge reason for me to fear hospitalisation, Communal wards strike me as bizarrely old-fashioned; a guaranteed way to make it difficult for people to recover from illness by forcing them to attempt to sleep in a noisy, busy room filled with strangers. 

I know it probably sounds ridiculous to a lot of people, but the idea of being weak and vulnerable, dressed in my night clothes, and in bed in what is essentially a public place, feels like some cruel and unusual form of torture. Every communal ward I’ve ever visited has been cramped and claustrophobic, with multiple different TVs all blaring out simultaneously, and patients either playing music or conducting loud conversations on their phones. It makes me want to run away even when I’m just visiting; the thought of actually being trapped – and that’s not too strong a word for how it makes me feel – in one, and unable to leave, is outright terrifying to me. 

Is it a phobia I have, or just a fear? 

Probably the latter. I know if I was desperately ill, I’d go to hospital. I’d like to think I’d even be grateful for it. I know beyond doubt, though, that I would hate every second; and that I’ve spent most of my life being absolutely terrified that this fear of mine will actually come true. 

 

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