Fear of Tuberculosis

What we know today as tuberculosis was once called consumption. The fear of this disease that often caused death has remained a fear among some people. This fear is known as Phthisiophobia.

In December of 1914 there was a case in New York City in which Joseph Sobol has his new marriage annulled because it was discovered he had tuberculosis. The judge in the case determined that he was at a state in which he could transmit the disease to his new bride. The overriding belief was the Joseph was irresponsible in marrying someone when he knew he had ‘consumption’.

Dr. S. Adophus Knopf wrote a letter to the New York Times indicating it was his belief that the disease could be managed in such a way that married couples should not feel pressure to escape marriage simply because one spouse had contracted the disease during the marriage.

The fear still remained in the minds of many readers and that fear is expressed in many today.

What Causes Phthisiophobia?

A fear of germs is often the start of the fear. There is an overriding fear that the germs from another person can invade and take over our health and well-being. Many will avoid people who appear visibly sick and they will worry if they have been around someone who later is identified as having a significant disease – especially if the disease is contageous.

As with most phobias it is likely this fear is partially observed and then added to. For instance you may have observed a loved one who tried to stay away from people known to be sick. You may add antibacterial gel and germ sprays to your arsenal of weapons to fight the potential of disease spread. You might obsess about immune boosting drinks that might help you ward off disease and you may become fearful of touching anything in public. You may even find it difficult to breathe regularly around others.

Symptoms of Phthisiophobia

As mentioned above the phthisiophobe will work overtime to try to avoid gatherings where a person with tuberculosis may be found. This may be true even though medication can now provide a cure in most cases.

Other symptoms include…

  • Panic
  • Confusion
  • Trembling
  • Weeping
  • An urge to flee
  • A sense of being smothered
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

The role of tuberculosis is small in developed cultures. We have learned a lot about how to treat the disease, but the fear of the disease is still strong among certain members of the population.

How to Overcome Phthisiophobia

This is one of those fears that can be combated through education. The fact that there is not a great deal of research that supports a widespread pandemic coupled with the fact that the disease can be cured with antibiotics in most cases can go a long way in providing the framework to help a phobic personality come to terms with the fact that there really is very little to fear from this disease in modern culture.

If the fear is rooted in other fears a therapist may be the best alternative to dealing with the fears and facing life with new hope.

The fear of tuberculosis is also referred to as:

  • Tuberculosis fear
  • Fear of contagious lung disease
  • Phthisiophobia
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