Pharmacophobia: How to overcome the fear of going on medication

Pharmacophobia is a phobia of taking medication and a negative attitude toward drugs in general. While a patient’s or doctor’s lack of awareness of adverse drug reactions may also have major repercussions, a fear of pharmaceuticals can have serious negative consequences for a patient’s health, such as denial of necessary pharmacological therapies.

Medication phobia can be triggered by unpleasant adverse reactions to medications which are sometimes prescribed inappropriately or at excessive doses.


Like all other phobias, the most common symptom will be anxiety. When anxiety becomes intense, it will eventually cause panic attacks that will necessitate hospitalization. However, some individuals who suffer from pharmacophobia may take things to the extreme by refusing to take medication even if the doctor has instructed them to do so due to very serious mental health issues such as, borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder, etc. 

There were few common symptoms of pharmacophobia:

  • Refuse to take medication
  • Intense fear when drugs around
  • Fear when thinking about drugs
  • State of denial about their illness
  • Panic attacks occur
  • Muscle tension and trembling
  • Unable to deal with strong emotion

6 Ways to Manage Your Pharmacophobia

1. Does the thought of taking medicine create phobia in your heart? 

People who have pharmacophobia usually develop from a negative encounter previously. They may have experienced a negative side effect or allergic reaction, or they may have seen a loved one become very ill or even die after taking medication. Even if the death or sickness isn’t caused by the medication, the brain can draw connections between them. Patients may be concerned that they will have the same experience. This is described as “fearing the fear”.

Symptoms of pharmacophobia can be so severe that patients stop taking medications entirely, endangering themselves in the process. This phobia’s nature also makes it particularly difficult to treat; the thought of taking a pill is what causes the anxiety in the first place. The good news is that you can overcome your pharmacophobia. Begin with these strategies to stock your anxiety-coping toolbox.

2. Find out how your Pharmacophobia started

Do you recall the first time you were afraid to take medication? If you can trace your fear back to its origin, you may be able to determine what is causing it in the first place. Consider any negative medication experiences you or someone you know has had. How did those encounters affect you? Remind yourself that just because someone else has a bad experience does not mean you will, too.

3. Get Your First Dose at the Pharmacy

Can’t stand the idea of taking a pill at home? Many patients who suffer from pharmacophobia are terrified of becoming extremely ill after taking medication for the first time in an unfamiliar setting where they will be unable to seek help. Someone suffering from a severe phobia may experience fear even if there is a phone nearby or another resident at home to keep an eye on them. Depending on your condition, you may not be able to avoid taking the medication.

Instead, go to the pharmacy for your first dose. With medical personnel on-site, it may be enough to calm your nerves and persuade you that your medication will not harm you. If nothing else, you’ll have access to help if something goes wrong.

4.  Try Talk Therapy 

Talk therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) can both significantly assist people suffering from pharmacophobia. The first tries to alter your perception of your fear and, as a result, its outcome. The second method teaches you to be mindful and to live in the present moment. In the case of phobias, where regressions and triggers can potentially cause more harm than good if mishandled, finding the right therapist is critical.

5. Try Exposure Therapy

Desensitization may be assisted by exposure therapy. This type of therapy exposes you to your fear while you are accompanied by a therapist who will assist you in working through the negative emotions you are experiencing. It has the highest level of efficacy in resolving extreme phobias, according to research and statistics. Because exposure therapy is often gradual, a complete recovery may take months or even years. It is, however, still a valuable long-term tool. Patients who undergo exposure therapy for phobias frequently report that their fears have been completely and permanently alleviated.

6. Change your dosing method

The phobia may be caused by a specific method of dosing rather than the medication itself. Patients may have difficulty swallowing medications, but they respond well to intramuscular injections. Others may tolerate pills well but struggle with topicals. Even the fear of choking on medication can stop some patients from continuing with treatment. It may be easier to change the approach to accommodate than to eliminate it. 

Although all the tips listed above may not be helpful to you, these tips might help you to take the first step in overcoming your fear of taking medication.


Goel, P. (2021). Is it necessary to get health checkup done?What if I have to take medicines everyday?. Fayth Clinic. 

OptimistMinds, 2021. What is Pharmacophobia? (An Overview). 

Petelinšek, A. & Korajlija, A. L. (2020). Predictors of pharmacophobia. Pubmed.

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