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Tackle Fear of Diseases with Knowledge

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.: Tue, Sep 3rd 2013

What disease do you fear the most? Even if we are healthy and have few risk factors, many of us secretly (or openly) fear acquiring a particular disease. It could be due to family history or to seeing a friend go through something awful. Other times, the media is to blame for planting seeds of fear in our heads.

knowledge empowers you on chalkboardNow that you've answered my first question, let me ask you another. What disease do you think is most feared by Americans? You might say cancer because of how openly our society talks about it these days. While cancer used to be a taboo, it's very much in the public consciousness now.

Yet the Big C is not the most feared disease in America. Neither is stroke, heart disease, or diabetes. Instead, it's the Big A - Alzheimer's, that is.

According to a Marist Poll conducted for Home Instead Senior Care, a whopping 44% of Americans cite Alzheimer's disease as their most-feared disease, while 33% say that they are most afraid of cancer.

I can understand why Alzheimer's would be frightening to so many. While some fear losing oneself (although research and many, many stories show that the person's essence remains throughout the disease), others fear being unable to care for oneself or being a burden to a spouse or adult child.

But I think what fuel our fears the most is the unknown. When we don't know what something is or what to expect from it, our terror of it increases tenfold. But when we have the courage to learn about what we fear, our enhanced knowledge helps us feel less afraid.

Whether you fear Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or another illness, here are some suggestions for easing that fear with knowledge:

  • Find a reputable website. For instance, in addition to Mental Help Net's many topic centers including Alzheimer's and Cancer, the Alzheimer's Association also has a top-notch website chock full of good information. So does the American Cancer Society.
  • Attend local educational events. Many health organizations, hospitals, and medical clinics offer free educational events to raise awareness about certain conditions. Check your local paper or ask your doctor for suggestions.
  • Try an online community. The Alzheimer's Association, American Cancer Society, and most other non-profit health organizations now offer free online communities to help connect people across the globe with similar concerns. You don't have to be diagnosed with a disease in order to participate in an online community. In fact, people who just want to learn more about a disease are often warmly welcomed and appreciated.


Home Instead Senior Care (November 13, 2012). Americans Rank Alzheimer's as Most Feared Disease, According to New Marist Poll for Home Instead Senior Care (


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

Itís a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at

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