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YOUR PROBLEMS: Terrified to have heart op.

Byline: Miriam Stoppard

AS a doctor, you may find my feelings stupid. I'm terrified of hospitals and operations.

I'd always considered myself healthy then, 18 months ago, I was told I had a leaky heart valve, though it caused no problems.

However, at my annual check-up last year it was found to be more leaky and the doctor said he'd put me down for an operation. However, the day before it was due I phoned the hospital and told them I was unwell. Half of me says be sensible, this operation's for your own good. The other half thinks of running a mile from my re-scheduled appointment. How can I face up to it?

VYOU'RE not stupid - it sounds as though you could have developed a medical phobia.

This isn't uncommon and the official name for a fear of hospitals is nosocomephobia while a fear of surgical operations is called tomophobia.

You're in good company - experts believe that one person in 10 is affected by a phobia at some time in their life - and medical phobias are among the most common.

Frankly, with medical phobias it's possible to get into a situation where you're putting your health, and even your life, at risk. The way to overcome your fear is gradually to expose yourself to the thing about hospitals that you find so terrifying.

And there are sympathetic doctors who will work out a personal programme to help you overcome your phobia.

Don't put off your next appointment. Instead, speak to your specialist and outline your fears. You need an operation but you don't have to die of fear to have it.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 8, 2002
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