Nosophobia: The Fear of Illness & Disease

Nosophobia (or pathophobia) is the fear of disease. This phobia is more common among men than it is among women. In general, nosophobes are afraid of contracting specific diseases – namely sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cancer, cardiovascular diseases, MS (multiple sclerosis).


Nosophobia (or pathophobia) is the fear of contracting specific diseases. Not to be confused with hyponchondria, which indicates the fear of disease in general.

Nosophobia can be linked to the memory of a sick relative. During his or her childhood, a nosophobe establishes a morbid link between the illness of one of their relatives and death. This fixation on a specific disease is often connected to the diseases experienced by the relative.

This phobia leads to obsessive behaviors, where nosophobes will be very attentive to their diet, pollution, electromagnetic waves and so on. They have an impressive degree of vigilance in preventing any possibility of contamination, and are fascinated by the field of medicine.

To calm this state of permanent stress, hypnosis, sophrology, meditation, yoga or Tai Chi are often recommended.

Analysis Of a Case Of Nosophobia

Example of a patient: Tom, 47, is afraid of having cancer. In his mind, even an ink stain on his hand could lead to skin cancer. As soon as he begins to cough, his mind races to suspicions that he’s developing lung cancer. To him, any disturbance in health is an urgent sign of a coming illness. This seriously disrupts his ability to lead a happy life.

Tom undertakes, on the advice of his doctor, hypnotherapy that allows him to step back from his nosophobia and identify root causes. He realizes he’s been carrying trauma and anxiety from his father’s cancer, who died three years earlier.

After hypnosis, Tom decides to start personal work in relational psychotherapy. He manages to make more sense of his inner disorder and to understand where his phobia comes from, thereby granting him the ability to manage his symptoms going forward.

Famous nosophobes: Argan in the famous play of Molière (1673) is the perfect nosophobic archetype.

Behaviors Associated with Nosophobia

What makes the difference between nosophobia and hypochondria is the specificity of diseases feared by nosophobes. While it can be said that the differences between the two are minute, there are some key distinctions that set nosophobia apart. As an example, nosophobia is deeply associated with nosocomephobia, or the fear of hospitals.

Possible Sources of Nosophobia

Studies have shown that many nosophobes cared for a sick parent or relative during childhood. These nosophobes establish a morbid link between the illnesses of their parents and death throughout their childhood. Moreover, the fixation made on specific diseases is often related to the diseases experienced by their loved one.

Physical, Psychic and Behavioral Consequences

Naturally, nosophobes will try to avoid anything that can lead to illness. They will obsessively pay attention to their diet and refuse to be in the presence of smokers. They are also likely to be obsessed with pollution, radioactivity and electromagnetic waves. Generally, their lifestyles are guided by a desire to live in a sanitized and safe world.

The medicine cabinets of nosophobes are always well-stocked, and include drugs and remedies of all kinds (allopathy, homeopathy, herbal medicine et cetera). They are fascinated by the medical and paramedical professions, to the degree of believing they have the answers to all conceivable illnesses.

In some cases, there is a contradictory mistrust of the medical profession coming from moments of “disillusionment” – when a medical professional was unable to address an imaginary ailment, for example.

The typical nosophobe is a deeply worried and unwelcoming personality. Often this phobia is associated with greed.

Possible Treatments for Nosophobia

It’s commonly suggested that nosophobes engage in hypnotherapy in order to relativize their relation to the disease and give themselves the ability to lead happier lives. Because nosophobia causes a state of near-permanent stress, techniques such as sophrology can be helpful – or even meditative practices, such as yoga and Tai Chi.

Phobias Associated with Nosophobia

  • Fear of colds: rhinophobia
  • Fear of osteoarthritis: arthrophobia
  • Fear of heart disease: cardiophobia
  • Afraid of stomach upset: gastralgophobia
  • Fear of kidney stones: nephrophobia
  • Fear of mouth diseases: stomatophobia
  • Fear of cancer: carcinophobia, carcinophobia
  • Afraid to be tired: kopophobia
  • Fear of drugs: pharmacophobia
  • Fear of being operated on: tomophobia
  • Fear of having a toothache: odontophobia
  • Fear of skin diseases: dermatophobia
  • Fear of ear diseases: otalgophobia
  • Fear of vomiting


What is nosophobia? Also known as pathophobia, nosophobia is the fear of contracting certain illnesses.
What are the signs and symptoms? It often manifests itself in obsessive behaviour related to one’s eating habits, environment, and hygiene.
What causes someone to become a nosophobe? These people have often cared for ill family members as children.
Can nosophobia be treated? It’s often recommended that nosophobes undergo hypnotherapy or take up Tai Chi or yoga.