Fear of Taking Medicine


Very few people actually like to take medicine. It could be the taste or texture. It could be way the medication makes you feel – or it could be the mechanism of actually swallowing. When the fear becomes unmanageable you may suffer from Pharmacophobia.

It doesn’t take long to view a medication advertisement on television and hear a list of potential side effects that seem to take up half of the commercial. While this listing has become mandatory it can also serve to instill a fear of all medicine while seeking to provide full disclosure on a singular drug.

What Causes Pharmacophobia

Many adults think back to a time in childhood when they tried to take a medication. They may be able to remember an offensive taste or a pill that didn’t go down causing a gag reflex. While adults may dismiss the severity of this type of episode it can provide the basis for a strong emotional response in adulthood.

An individual may observe someone who has taken medication and suffered through some of the side effects leaving the observer to conclude that medication does more harm than good. This can be the conclusion even if logic can pinpoint the help medication can provide in so many instances.

This fear can even come from entertaining the idea that medical companies are trying to keep people unhealthy so they will require more medications. The thought of a conspiracy seems unbelievable to many, but to one who has this fear it can not only seem possible, but probable.

Symptoms of Pharmacophobia

An individual who has this fear may refuse to visit a doctor because they ultimately fear being prescribed medication. In the worst scenarios the individual will refuse all medical treatment.

Other symptoms include…

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Loose bowels
  • Air Hunger
  • Trembling
  • Crying
  • Fainting
  • Panic
  • Profound anxiety
  • Dry mouth

Even when the individual rationally understands that the medication can help them with a medical issue they can’t seem to escape the belief that something far  more terrible awaits if they take the medication.

How to Overcome Pharmacophobia

This fear will require an intervention of logic. In other words the individual may need help understanding how the medication can benefit their medical condition and how the benefits may be more substantial than the side effects.

Certain therapists may be able to address gag reflex issues that may be present.

The human brain is an incredible device that stores and retrieves memories and experiences with as little as a taste, touch or smell. Those experiences (both positive and negative) can affect life decisions as long as we allow them to. Obviously if the experience was good we want to repeat it, but if it was bad our minds may work overtime to convince us it should be avoided at all costs.  This is actually a positive reactionary purpose for the brain. The trouble starts when that brain begins to assign strong danger to things that may not be dangerous.

The fear of taking medicine is also referred to as:

  • Medication fear
  • Medication related anxiety
  • Pharmacophobia
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