The fear of finding out: identifying psychological barriers to diagnosis in the UK.

Document type
Paxman, Jon; Manning, Julia; James, Matt.
Date of publication
1 January 2017
Health Services
Social welfare
Material type

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This report uses literature data, observations and discussions to frame a new approach to understanding the nature and implications of health-system avoidance by individuals who choose to remain ignorant about their health status, due to fear. The authors investigate a range of psychological barriers associated with the ‘fear of finding out'. These include fear of:

  • being physically examined;
  • the hospital environment;
  • clinical investigations;
  • treatment;
  • stigma and/or discrimination;
  • being pressured to make lifestyle changes;
  • appearing weak / not in control, and
  • sexual dysfunction after treatment.

They consider the type of patients most likely to suffer from these fears, and analyse the risks associated with failure to seek diagnosis. They conclude by reviewing the approaches likely to be most effective in enabling patients to overcome their fears and the benefits of seeking medical help and advice in good time.

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