What is the fear of getting sick (Nosophobia)?

Nosophobia is a strong, persistent fear of getting sick.

While many people feel anxious about their health, people with phobias cannot control their fears. They often fear developing a specific disease or condition, such as heart disease, cancer, or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Learn more about fear of getting sick, including characteristics, symptoms, causes, and how to seek treatment if necessary.


Nosophobia is a marked and persistent fear of getting sick or of being sick. It is a specific phobia under the Fifth Edition Classification of Anxiety Disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

A specific phobia involves an overwhelming fear of an object or situation.

Examples of other specific phobias are acrophobia (acrophobia) and fear of small spaces (claustrophobia).

People with phobias may be immediately triggered by something that reminds them of their health-related anxiety. For example, a news report about a particular illness may cause them to have a panic attack (sudden, intense fear and physical symptoms). They may also adopt avoidant behaviors, such as staying away from social gatherings for fear of getting sick. They can also be very distressed when they hear someone is sick.

Phobias and Illness Anxiety

Phobias are sometimes confused with illness anxiety disorder, formerly known as hypochondria or hypochondria. In fact, some mental health professionals use these terms interchangeably. While they may overlap, there may be some differences between the two cases.

People with phobias tend to be afraid of specific, well-known illnesses or disorders, while people with illness anxiety disorders often fear getting sick. They may think they are more ill than if they had few or mild symptoms. They may also rush to their healthcare provider, assuming they are sick without any symptoms.

If you suspect you have a phobia or illness anxiety disorder, your healthcare provider can help you make the right diagnosis.

Depression and Anxiety


As with other specific phobias, most symptoms of phobias are similar to those of other anxiety disorders. Symptoms of phobias may include:

  • panic attack
  • shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • hard to fall asleep
  • Lack of productivity or difficulty concentrating, usually due to insomnia (inability to fall asleep or stay asleep)
  • Persistent worries that interfere with daily life
  • Avoidance behaviors, such as staying away from social gatherings to avoid getting sick
  • heart rate too fast
  • nausea
  • excessive sweating
  • nightmare

How common is it to have anxiety and depression at the same time?


A qualified mental health professional can diagnose you with a phobia based on the phobia-specific criteria in the DSM-5. To be considered a specific phobia, your fear of getting sick must:

  • Your fear of illness is persistent, not situational or temporary, and anxiety can persist for six months or more.
  • Fear of getting sick can interfere with other aspects of your daily life, such as work, school, or relationships.
  • Your fears and anxiety are out of proportion to the actual risks involved. For example, if someone is actually at high risk for a disease, they may not have a phobia.

Alternatives to exclude phobias

Your healthcare provider should rule out any possible physical illness before you seek treatment for your phobia from a mental health professional. If you have symptoms that concern you, you can discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider.

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Phobias can arise for a variety of reasons, including co-occurring mental health conditions (which co-occur with the phobia), environmental factors, and personal medical history. Here are some of the most common causes of phobias:

  • A past illness or a family history of illness or illness may cause someone to develop a phobia later in life. For example, someone who was seriously ill in childhood may develop intense anxiety about getting sick as an adult.
  • People with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are more likely than the general public to have a strong fear of being sick.
  • Exposure to news reports or other media about current prevalent health issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, may trigger anxiety in some people and cause them to develop phobias.
  • There is some evidence that medical students, researchers and others who spend a lot of time reading about various diseases for work or school may experience greater anxiety about their health.

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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy or talk therapy that is often the treatment of choice for phobias. A therapist can help people with phobias identify negative thought patterns about their health in order to change them. They can also help target unwanted behaviors, such as avoidance behaviors, and change them over time.

Since a phobia is an anxiety disorder, it can also be helpful to treat someone’s underlying anxiety disorder through other methods. For example, prescription anxiolytics or antidepressants may provide relief.

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In addition to mental health treatment, there are other coping strategies that can help you manage your intense fear of being sick. These methods may include:

  • Relaxation techniques: When panic attacks begin, relaxation techniques can help you manage your anxiety. Try breathing exercises or listen to soothing white noise or music.
  • Mindfulness Techniques: Many specific phobias, including phobias, involve fear of the future. Try to stay grounded and present through mindfulness techniques like yoga, walking, and meditation.
  • Exercise and nutrition: If you are concerned about possible illness, it may be helpful to take proactive steps to stay as healthy as possible. Exercise regularly and make sure your diet is balanced with all the vitamins and nutrients you need.
  • Good sleep habits: If you’re losing sleep because of fear of getting sick, try developing healthy sleep habits, such as turning off devices an hour before bedtime and sleeping in a dark, cool room. Getting a good night’s sleep can also help you manage your daytime anxiety.
  • Support Groups: There are plenty of peer support groups, either in-person or online, that can help you manage your specific phobia or any other anxiety disorder. Talking to people with similar fears can help you find support, perspective, and valuable advice.


A phobia is a persistent and intense fear of getting sick. This is a type of anxiety disorder called a specific phobia, which is a persistent fear of an object or situation. If you have symptoms such as panic attacks and insomnia for six months or more due to a fear of a specific illness or illness, you may have a phobia.

Causes of phobias may include past traumatic medical events, exposure to media coverage of epidemics or other serious health problems, and/or reading about medical conditions at work or school. People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and other mental health conditions are also at risk for developing phobias. The most common treatment for phobias is CBT.

How to Diagnose Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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Some people who suspect they have a phobia or other specific phobia may avoid seeking treatment out of shame. Others may think that their fear of getting sick causes the therapist to suspect them.

However, if you are distressed by a disease or disease, there are effective treatments available. If you think your fear of getting sick is interfering with your daily life, don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider, who can refer you to a mental health professional if needed.