Mental Health

What Is Health Anxiety and Surgery Phobia?

Health Anxiety

It is normal to be a little worried about health issues.

However, as someone with anxiety, I start to panic whenever I feel an uncomfortable or painful physical symptoms, which is also an form of anxiety in itself called health anxiety.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, health anxiety is “a preoccupation with the belief that one has, or is in danger of developing, a serious illness … They become preoccupied with bodily functions (breathing, heartbeat), minor physical abnormalities (skin blemishes), or physical sensations (headaches, stomach aches).” It is also misinterpreting normal sensations as dangerous.

I’ve been getting kidney infections constantly for a year. The pain is unbearable at times. Sometimes when it’s bad, I get scared that it might be something more serious than doctors’ think, so I always get checked out. It just ends up being the same thing. When I start to feel pain elsewhere, I worry and overthink too much.

It gets complicated when the sensation you’re feeling is an anxiety symptom. Anxiety can cause very real physical symptoms. “These symptoms add fuel to the fire. Now you have real evidence that something is seriously wrong. Or do you? Perhaps it’s anxiety.”

When I first started college, before I knew much about anxiety, I remember feeling a choking sensation and I thought I was having an allergic reaction to peanuts because I was around them a lot more than I was in high school, which was a peanut free zone. I started screaming and crying because I thought I was about to die. It kept happening. I thought it was maybe cancer? I mean, it had to be something. I booked an appointment with the doctor, and we realized I was just having panic attacks and choking sensations was one of my symptoms.

What You Can Do About Your Health Anxiety

  • According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the most effective treatment for health anxiety is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
  • Get checked if you feel like something’s wrong.
  • Make sure they rule of the condition you’re worried you have, instead of just accepting a doctor’s opinion.
  • Be determined to get an answer. I knew there had to be a reason for having constant kidney infections, while doctors told me I was just prone to them. It took about eight months for them to start investigating further. When someone figured it out, I let out a big sigh of relief.

Surgery Phobia (Tomophobia)

According to, “Tomophobia is a fear of surgery or surgical operations … This phobia could result in someone not receiving the medical treatment they need.”

The website adds, “It is generally accepted that phobias arise from a combination of external events (i.e. traumatic events) and internal predispositions (i.e. heredity or genetics).”

I have an intense fear of surgery. Mine is likely due to surgeries and a hard recovery process that I had in the past. I had many surgeries when I was just a toddler, although I don’t remember it. One that I remember though was when I had my spine surgery when I was 13. My recovery was brutal. I was on bed rest for two months. It hurt too much to sit up, stand, move. I decided I was never having another surgery again. Even before that surgery, I remember being scared. I fought my mom as she put me down on the operating table.

But some surgeries are¬†inevitable. I had to have a surgery at the end of last year to get my wisdom teeth out. Even though it’s a simple procedure and I knew nothing could happen to me, I was still terrified. I remember just crying and listening to my music beforehand while holding my bear. I fought me dad and nurse as they were putting me on the operating table and putting my mask on. I’m 23 years old! Fear turns me into a young child.

Because of my kidney infections that I mentioned before, I might have to have surgery to fix the problem. I went to the urologist, she told me I may have to, and I said no. Eventually I realized that if I have to, then I have to. But I’m still really scared about the possibility.

What You Can Do About Your Surgery Phobia

  • Talk to your doctor, nurse, and/or surgeon about your anxiety
  • Have¬†complete understanding of the procedure and recovery process
  • Talk to your counsellor about your fears
  • Have support with you
  • If you have generalized anxiety, use your coping skills that you use for that
Jessica Victoria
<p>Jessica Victoria, 24, is a writer and advocate for mental health, disability and LGBTQ+. She uses her personal experiences and knowledge to help and educate others.</p>

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