In the know: Help patients get a handle on their fears

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, April 27, 2009

Fear is usually defined as a natural response to a real danger. Everyone has experienced it at one time or another. The usual response to fear is to assess the situation, determine whether it is a real danger—as opposed to a misperception—and then take steps to handle the problem.

Fear may disrupt our lives. We may experience restless sleep, difficulty concentrating, or loss of appetite. However, most people are able to handle or avoid their fears and move on.

Here are some ways you can help patients handle their fears:

  • Determine exactly what is causing the fear. Getting the patient’s description of what he or she is afraid of is very important. Don’t make assumptions.
  • Caution the patient not to intensify the fear by his or her own self-talk.
  • Help the patient problem-solve his or her fear by asking the patient to answer the question, “What is the worst that can happen?” Then discuss with the patient whether he or she could live with that, or point out the odds of that happening.
  • Ask the patient, “What is the most likely thing that can happen?” You can prompt the patient to visualize the situation and how he or she might respond, and offer alternatives as appropriate.
  • Encourage the patient to decide for him or herself when he or she is ready to face the fear.

Source: Stressed Out About Difficult Patients, HCPro, Inc. 2007. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

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