Needle phobia is a serious problem for people affected by it, and is a very real concern that some people have. Needle phobia (or Trypanophobia) refers to a serious fear of needles. If you have needle phobia you know that it causes extreme stress at the idea of having to have a needle.
Your reaction to needles may range from sweaty palms and an increased heart rate to full-blown anxiety attacks and fainting. The stress that people with needle phobia experience often prevents them from getting preventative medical interventions like vaccinations, and can even cause them to avoid necessary medical treatments. This avoidance of medical intervention can put people with needle phobia at a higher risk for diseases and death.
Recent studies suggest that approximately 22-23% of people suffer from needle phobia.
Often, people with needle phobia feel ignored or beaten down by the medical profession. This article can help you take personal control of this issue and make the necessary changes to get better.
1. Find a doctor that takes needle phobia seriously.
It’s important that you feel comfortable telling your doctor about your fear of needles and that your doctor can accommodate you and help you relax. If your doctor is not open to discussing your fear of needles, consider finding a new doctor who you feel more comfortable with.
2. Try positive coping statements to talk yourself through it.
Positive coping statements can help your brain refocus from the anxiety you are feeling to positive, rational, realistic thoughts. Try telling yourself things like “it’ll be over soon”, “having a needle is not dangerous, I will be alright” or “I am doing a good thing by protecting myself from a dangerous disease.” Try writing these down on a piece of paper before you go to the doctor’s office and then read them to yourself while you are waiting for your shot.
3. Try relaxation techniques to calm yourself down.
There is some scientific evidence that brief functional relaxation techniques can help people with needle phobia control their anxiety. Use techniques like deep, slow breathing and self-control muscle relaxation to help you through your appointment.
4. Try distracting yourself from the needle.
Distraction may help you take your mind off things. Bring your favourite music to your appointment or play your favourite game. Try to bring things to your appointment that you can focus on and that generally make you happy.
5. Look away from the needle.
This may seem like a simple suggestion but it can in fact be a huge help for you while getting a needle. A lot of the unrest caused by needles happens through the visual evidence of the needle entering your arm (nobody’s favourite sensation!) This works well with the distraction suggestion. Look away and focus on something else altogether to keep your mind off of the task at hand.
6. Ask your doctor to freeze the site of the needle.
Numbing patches and numbing creams can be used to freeze the site of the needle before the doctor gives it to you. This means that you won’t actually feel the small amount of pain that comes from the injection. Knowing that you’re not going to experience any pain may help you control your anxiety.
7. Seek the help of a professional psychotherapist.
A psychologist or psychiatrist may help you to develop strategies to control your fear of needles through professional therapy sessions. They may use cognitive behavioural therapy or exposure therapy to help you control your anxiety.
8. Find out if the intervention is available in non-needle form.
Ask your healthcare provider if the intervention that you need is available in a needle-free manner. For example, the influenza vaccine is available as FluMist, a nasal spray that involves no injection. This way you can be protected from the flu while you’re still working on some of the other anxiety control techniques that will help you to tackle your next needle challenge.
9. Try acupuncture as an additional solution.
This may seem like a curious suggestion, but one of the best ways to desensitize to a fear is to gradually increase what is causing the phobia in the first place. Acupuncture rarely hurts (in the sense of a traditional needle), instead it provides more of a dull ache around the point of insertion (depending on where this is). A slight tingling sensation may also occur. Studies suggest there are many benefits to acupuncture, so you can kill two birds with one stone here!
You are not alone. Needle phobia affects many people and can be a significant problem. The techniques above can help you take control of your fear, get you on the road to recovery, and help you get the necessary medical interventions you need. Everyone is different, so try different techniques in different combinations until you discover what works best for you.
See also: How to Get Rid of Homophobia