How to overcome a fear of psychiatrists

Naomi Carr
Author: Naomi Carr Medical Reviewer: Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD Last updated:

It is common for people to feel afraid of attending an appointment with a psychiatrist or mental health professional. There are many reasons why they might experience this anxiety. However, there are several ways to overcome this fear by utilizing self-help techniques and exercises.

Why do people avoid seeing psychiatrists?

There are several reasons why someone might be unwilling or unable to see a psychiatrist, such as:


Unfortunately, many people with mental health conditions are subjected to stigma and prejudice, both within their community and professionally. This can have a significant impact on an individual’s willingness to seek help for their condition, causing many people to avoid seeking psychiatric and psychological help [1].


Similarly, many people feel ashamed or embarrassed about seeking professional help for their mental health issues. This might be because they consider themselves weak or incompetent if they require professional intervention, or because they see themselves as unworthy of help [1][2].


Various types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder, might prevent someone from attending an appointment with a psychiatrist. People may feel anxious about meeting a new person, speaking in front of someone, discussing traumatic experiences, or receiving a certain diagnosis [2][3].

Specific phobia (iatrophobia)

Specific phobias are a type of anxiety disorder, in which an individual feels an intense fear or dislike of a person, place, or object. Latrophobia is the phobia of doctors or medical care. If someone experiences this phobia, they might struggle to see a psychiatrist due to extreme anxiety and panic attacks [3][4].


Some people may doubt the effectiveness of psychological treatments, such as believing that medications are unnecessary or that therapy won’t work. As such, they might be unwilling to seek this type of professional help, thinking it would be a waste of time or money [2].

Feeling that help is not required

Some people may be unaware that they are unwell or experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, so don’t think that they require any professional assistance. Similarly, someone may notice their symptoms but believe that they will go away on their own or are insignificant, so they avoid seeking help from a psychiatrist [2].

How to overcome your fear of psychiatrists

There are several interventions and techniques that you could utilize to help you overcome your fear of psychiatrists. Some techniques may not apply to you, as they will depend on the cause of your fear, while others may be very useful.

Learn more

You may be able to reduce your fear by learning more about the benefits of talk therapy and professional psychiatric help. This could help you to reduce any anxieties, phobias, fear of stigma, and shame, and to gain a deeper understanding of the way that this type of treatment could help you.

Similarly, you may find it useful to learn more about your condition or the symptoms you are experiencing. This too could help to reduce anxieties and fears about mental health and seeking professional help [1][5].

Record your triggers and symptoms

You may find it useful to keep a diary or a record of your symptoms and triggers, such as what you were doing or thinking prior to feeling anxious. This can help you to better understand what causes your anxiety, so you can learn how to avoid or manage triggering situations.

Also, as your symptoms improve, you can write down any coping strategies you have used and how they have helped, so that you have a record of useful techniques to refer to in similar situations [5][6].

Talk to friends and family

Sharing any fears or concerns you have with friends and family can help you to receive appropriate support and encouragement, while potentially reducing the negative impact of these anxieties. Also, by talking with friends and family, you can practice communicating about your emotional difficulties, to help you feel more confident about doing this with a psychiatrist [5][6].

Attend a support group

If your fear of seeing a psychiatrist is related to stigma, shame, or anxieties about speaking to someone one-to-one, you might find it useful to attend a support group. This can help to reduce negative associations you may be experiencing around attending talk therapy.

By sharing experiences with others who have encountered similar symptoms and conditions to you, you can increase your self-esteem, reduce your fear of stigmatization, and learn to communicate about your mental health in a supportive group setting [3][7].

Searching for the right professional

Your fear of seeing a psychiatrist may be because the person you are seeing is not a good fit for you. When receiving a therapeutic intervention, it is important that you feel comfortable with the professional and can build a good rapport [2].

You might want to look online for different types of therapists or arrange a phone call with a few therapists before meeting in person. This allows you to learn more about the person you will be meeting with and their professional experience, helping you feel less anxious when attending your first appointment [8].

Positive thinking

Setting a goal or considering your motivations can be useful when attempting to overcome fear. For example, you may want to see a psychiatrist to improve your self-esteem, reduce your anxieties or emotional distress, or learn how to cope with social situations. Reminding yourself of why you want to see a psychiatrist can help reduce your anxieties and motivate you to attend an appointment [5][8].

Take small steps

When overcoming a fear, it is advisable to try and take small steps toward the end goal. If you are afraid of sitting in a room with a psychiatrist, you may want to start by sending them an email, then attempting a phone consultation, and then try having a conversation over a video call, before finally meeting in person.

By gradually exposing yourself to your fear in small steps, you can increase your confidence and learn coping skills for managing your anxieties. This can help you feel more comfortable as you then progress onto more anxiety-provoking situations [3][5].

Prepare for appointments

If you feel afraid of seeing a psychiatrist because you are anxious about speaking in front of someone or discussing your emotional difficulties, you might find it useful to prepare for your appointments.

You could do this by writing down the things you want to discuss so you can read from the page. This can help to reduce anxieties and begin communication, following which the conversation can continue with prompts from the professional [2][3].


It is possible to improve various types of anxieties and fears by taking care of your general physical and mental well-being. You could do this by [5][6][7]:

  • Eating healthily
  • Getting plenty of good quality sleep
  • Exercising
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Meditation and yoga
  • Avoiding caffeine, drugs, and alcohol
  • Taking part in hobbies and enjoyable activities

Similarly, it is a good idea to practice breathing exercises. It is common for heart rate and breathing rate to increase with anxiety and panic attacks, so learning how to control and reduce arousal can be very helpful in these situations.

Practice taking slow, deep breaths, and counting as you breathe in and out. By practicing when you are calm, you will find it easier to utilize these techniques when you begin to feel the physical symptoms of anxiety [5][6].

  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2020). Stigma, Prejudice and Discrimination Against People With Mental Illness. APA. Retrieved from
  2. Taber, J.M., Leyva, B., & Persoskie, A. (2015). Why Do People Avoid Medical Care? A Qualitative Study Using National Data. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 30(3), 290–297. Retrieved from
  3. National Institute of Mental Health. (Reviewed 2023). Anxiety Disorders. NIMH. Retrieved from
  4. MSD Manual. (Reviewed 2022). Phobic Disorders (Phobias).MSD Manual. Retrieved from
  5. Mental Health Foundation. (n.d). How To Manage Anxiety and Fear. Mental Health. Retrieved from
  6. Mind. (2021). Anxiety and Panic Attacks. Mind. Retrieved from
  7. National Health Service. (Reviewed 2022). Self-Help – Generalised Anxiety Disorder in Adults. NHS. Retrieved from
  8. Mental Health America. (n.d). What Should I Look For In A Therapist?MHA. Retrieved from
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Naomi Carr
Author Naomi Carr Writer

Naomi Carr is a writer with a background in English Literature from Oxford Brookes University.

Published: Jul 31st 2023, Last edited: Feb 21st 2024

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD
Medical Reviewer Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD LSW, MSW

Dr. Jenni Jacobsen, PhD is a medical reviewer, licensed social worker, and behavioral health consultant, holding a PhD in clinical psychology.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Jul 31st 2023