Health Care Phobia


Alison Palmer, BSN

I don't know about you, but I suffer from health care phobia.  It's a strange, and probably rare, condition that makes me hate- absolutely hate- having to call my family doctor.

When someone in my home gets sick I begin a mental game. I look at all the facts, then convince myself whatever is wrong is nothing.  Once I've made that conclusion, something at the back of my brain begins to tickle until it pushes out the worst case scenario it can come up with and starts hammering me with doubts and questions.  I start second guessing myself, re-assessing the facts and digging for anything I might have missed.  I think it has to do with the power of knowledge.  No one warned me about the resulting paranoia when I went to nursing school.  It just proves that in certain cases, ignorance is bliss.  (Yes, I'm aware that I have psychotic tendencies, just don't tell my doctor.)

I totally despise actually having to walk into my doctor's office for a "sick" visit because I'm sure she is going to confirm the fact that there is nothing really wrong and nothing she can do about it.  Then, I'll leave feeling foolish.

It also stems from the many years I worked night shift.  In the middle of the night you need to be VERY sure you actually need to speak to the doctor before picking up that phone.  Point in case, the following scenario:

"She's 8cm?  Why are you calling me if she's only 8cm?"

-verses- "She's 8cm?  Why in the world did you wait to call me until she was 8cm?"

Some nights you just can't win.

So, yes I have a severe case of health care phobia.  I hate going in to be brushed off as one of those overly controlling mothers who bring their kid in for every little sniffle.  I resolve to wait it out and not to bug the doctor.

Then, I get to thinking-

What if it really is something serious? What if they really are sick and really do need antibiotics and I didn't take them in- then they get really, really sick and I have to take them to the emergency room- where everyone looks at me like I'm a bad mother- and may even call protective services because I neglected to care for my child- and I don't have a really good excuse for not taking my child to the doctor- other than I hate to bug them and look like a fool- but it's probably nothing, he's only been sick for 2 days-give it another 2 and then decide-

My poor brain has now worried itself into a nasty stress headache.  I can't possibly deal with a trip to the doctor when I feel lousy myself.  I resolve, once again, to wait another day or so.  I need to be sure. 

Tomorrow I may decide differently.  Tomorrow I may be sure that my child has any number of terrible diseases and I'll herd him into the doctor's office.  If I do, you'd better believe that I've suddenly changed from praying that I'm over reacting.  Now I'm praying that when the doctor walks into the exam room, my son will suddenly look sicker than he has for the past few torturous days.  How dare he suddenly have the energy of three two-year-olds?  I brought him to the doctor because he was sick, dang it!

My poor child, if we leave the doctor with a diagnosis and a prescription in hand, it's probably because his mother prayed for the illness to be that severe.  If we leave with the proclamation that "it's just viral, it's been going around" the shrug and the pat on the back that the doctor gives me in consolation doesn't really fix my embarrassment.  Plus, I secretly hate myself for knowing that the tables have been turned many times. I've also been guilty of assuring a patient that "it's probably nothing".  Now it's coming back to bite me.

Most days I'm a fully functioning, rational human being that can think through any problem.  I'm an excellent nurse and give my patients the respect they deserve.  But every once in a while that overly spastic mother will show up with her son demanding that I some how make him better/make him worse.  I'm never really sure which one she wants.  It's probably because she suffers from health care phobia, too.


Copyright 2008- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


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