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Children may find it difficult to take medication, but this aversion typically vanishes as they grow older. For some people though, it sticks with them well into adulthood and even develops into a profound medication phobia or pharmacophobia.
What is pharmacophobia?
Pharmacophobia is generally defined as the irrational fear of taking medication or using any pharmacological treatment. People who have this phobia are afraid of taking medicine, visiting a doctor, getting injections, or becoming addicted to certain medications. When they are faced with these situations, pharmacophobic people may exhibit symptoms of anxiety, such as nausea, palpitations, quickened heart rate, sudden weakness, trembling, and even panic attacks.
A pharmacophobic person would likely avoid seeking treatment for their ailments, severely compromising their physical and mental health or hygiene. The factors that could cause someone to develop this phobia are not officially established yet, but some of the common speculations include traumatic events and hereditary factors.
Ways to help you overcome pharmacophobia
If you believe that you have pharmacophobia and are seeking to overcome it, you may consider following these suggestions:
Determine how it started. Many pharmacophobic people develop their phobia following a negative experience in their childhood. Having experienced a negative side effect or allergic reaction to a medication could result in pharmacophobia. Seeing a loved one suffer after taking medication could lead to this fear too, even if it was not a result of the medication they took.
In some cases, a pharmacophobic person’s parent might have had pharmacophobia as well, with the phobia being passed on genetically or through upbringing. Once you determine how your fear started, you may identify what is causing it and this could be a huge help in uprooting your pharmacophobia.
Visit a therapist. A phobia can be considered as a manifestation of an anxiety disorder and, as this is a mental health condition, seeing a mental health professional for therapy would help you manage it.
One such therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is designed to change the way you perceive your fear, therefore changing how you react to the object of your phobia. There is also Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), where you can learn to control how you express and experience your fear. If you think that desensitizing would help you overcome pharmacophobia, you can try exposure therapy as well, in which you will be exposed to your fear as the therapist helps you work through the emotions you experience.
Change dosing methods. Your pharmacophobia could be related to a specific dosing form instead of the medication itself. Some may dislike taking pills but are fine with topical medication, while others may struggle with topicals but do well with pills. If you detest both forms of medication though, you can trick yourself into taking your medication with food. There are medicines, like CBD products, that are available as edibles (e.g. gummy bears, chocolates, and gumdrops) and tinctures you can mix with food or drinks.
Acknowledging your fears and managing them on your own is admirable, but you do not have to do this alone. Do not hesitate to discuss your problem with your doctor, therapist, or pharmacist, so you can get all the help you need to take your medications.