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Mental Health

Fear of Having to Cough In Public

01/20/2011

Question:

I have a very strange fear that is having a major impact on my life. I know it is not normal but I can`t make myself stop feeling this way.

It is a completely irrational fear of coughing in front of other people. This is a big problem because I have asthma which makes me cough probably more than most people. (I do have an asthma dr and I do take meds for asthma.)

I think I even know why I have this fear. My parents were kind of ignorant, and when I used to cough when I was growing up they thought I was doing it on purpose to get attention (thats what their dr told them) so they used to punish me for it. I learned when I was very little to hold my breath, hide, do anything I needed to do in order not to let anybody see me coughing.

Now that is a habit and I can`t break it. I have a real fear of coughing when other people can see or hear it. This has made me lose several jobs (I stay home from work too much, not because I`m lazy or faking it, it is because of this irrational fear of coughing in front of other people) and I`m about to lose another one. I am becoming a hermit who never goes anywhere or does anything with other people. I know that is not normal.

I need to get over this. How can I do that?

Answer:

What a difficult history and situation that you describe. Three thoughts come to mind. First, although the issue seems narrow, the impact is wide. I recommend that you consider an outpatient evaluation with a psychiatrist or your primary care doctor to assess the role of medications for you. Second, you may want to consider clinical hypnosis or biofeedback. For the former, consult the Society for Clinical Hypnosis. Max Shapiro, PhD has been active with organization for years. Third, I recommend considering medical acupuncture. To find a practitioner near you, consult the Website for the Helms Medical Institute (http://www.hmieducation.com/) Best of luck.

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Response by:

Ram Chandran  Kalyanam, MD Ram Chandran Kalyanam, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University