Trypanophobia or needle phobia is extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or needles. Needle phobia is more common than we suspect and it can be overcome.
Nataxja Cini speaks with news anchor Annette Goerner on CTV Ottawa Morning Live about how to manage your fear of needles through relaxation techniques.
What is Needle Phobia?
Needle phobia is more common in children then adults but can last a life time if not addressed or if you continue to have unpleasant and painful experiences when you need to get an injection. Any phobia or fear can prevent you from doing normal everyday activities and you can learn how to manage your anxiety and fears and overcome your phobia. For myself, I dreaded going to the dentist if I had to get a filling because I found getting frozen was the most painful part of the visit. Through EMDR and calm breathing techniques I have overcome my fear of needles and dread of visiting the dentist.
Many people once they have developed a needle phobia, avoid situations such as visiting the dentist, going to the doctor or even having a tetanus booster or another vaccine because of their fear of having to face being given a “shot in the arm with a needle”. Even people who want to work in the medical field can also experience a fear of needles. Quite a few people are afraid of needles, no need to worry that you are the only person.
What is Causing or Maintaining your fear?
Learn why you have a needle phobia is part of overcoming your fear.
Some common fears are:
- Afraid that something bad will happen
- Previous unpleasant experience
- Experiencing a negative reaction such as a panic attack, feeling flushed, racing heart rate, sweating or even fainting when exposure to needles
- Examine what “bad thing” you think might happen and examine how likely and unlikely that event could occur
-Many people are afraid of the pain, fear of fainting, the needle might get stuck, they might get sick from the needle, or that there may be blood.
Most of these fears are unrealistic but repeated bad experiences because you were so tenses and fearful just reinforce that getting a needle is very unpleasant. When we are tense, our muscles seize up and this does make it more difficult to have a more pain free experience. Learning why you have a phobia is important to overcoming an learning how to manage your phobia.
Treatments for needle phobia
You can overcome your needle phobia and there are quite a few psychological treatments for needle phobia. But if you feel faint. fear fainting or have fainted in the past, do the Applied Tension Method so your blood pressure does not drop. This involves tensing some muscles to keep your blood pressure up while keeping the arm where you receive the injection relaxed.
Applied Tension Method
When you go for a needle, get comfortable in the chair. Let the staff know you do tend to get faint when you see or receive an injection.
-‐ Tense all the muscle in your arms, legs and your body core
-‐ Hold your muscles tense for 10 – 15 secs until your feel a warm sensation in your body
-‐ Relax your muscles for 20 – 30 seconds
-‐ Repeat tensing your muscles and relaxing your muscles for at least 5 rounds
-‐ You want to relax just so you are feeling normal and not overly relaxed like jelly
-‐ You want to be not overly tense and not overly relaxed
All of the following techniques involve Systematic desensitization which involves small steps to getting you to become comfortable around needles and eventually confident to having an injection. Your therapist will emotionally encourage you and support you through these steps. You can learn how to manage your needle phobia within a day or over a few weeks depending upon the severity of your phobia and how willing you are to challenge your fears.
- Exposure Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- Relaxation techniques through breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualization
Exposure therapy is a common way to help you become comfortable with talking about, seeinga needle, working with and eventually having an injection. These are all small steps to getting you to have an injection and become comfortable around needles.
Exposure therapy is involves gradually exposing you to needles in a controlled, safe setting. The therapist will first start by asking you about your past experiences and when you first noticed your phobia. Then the therapist will teach you calming techniques and breathing exercises so you learn you can manage your anxiety, fears and slow down your breathing and your heart rate. You and the therapist will verbally discuss needles. The aim here is to get you comfortable with seeing a syringe with a needle and eventually be able to get an injection while managing your emotional reaction. Every time your anxiety starts to peak, you with the guidance of your therapist will start doing the relaxation techniques so you slow down your breathing and learn you can manage your emotional reaction. Exposure therapy involves the gradually exposure to needles and you actively learning to manage your emotional reactions.
Hypnotherapy is involves listening to a therapist talking to you about overcoming your phobiaand learning how to relax your body. Hypnotherapy involves relaxation techniques and positive reinforcement that you will always feel relaxed, safe, and calm when you are having an injection. Hypnotherapy involves suggestions that you can release the tension from your body allowing yourself to move into a state of relaxation prior to receiving an injection. I find Hypnotherapy similar to being mindful and mediation.
Cognitive behavioural Therapy
Teaches you that the safety behaviours and avoidance techniques you are currently doing increases your fear in the long term. While this may have been helpful when you were younger, these behaviors are now preventing you for doing certain behaviours or activities now. CBT examines your thoughts and beliefs which keep you being in a fearful state. It challenges your negative thoughts and beliefs and examines how unlikely these fears are to occur.
Relaxation techniques through breathing, muscle relaxation, and visualization
These are my personal favourite techniques and where I always start when treating phobias.
All the psychotherapy treatments can or do incorporate them into the treatment of phobias.
Deep slow breathing is a great way to help you relax
There are many different breathing techniques such as 4-‐7-‐8, straw breathing or breathing slowly in and a long exhale
Progressive Muscle relaxation
Teaches clients to tense and relax their muscles and their body. You cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time. You can combine slow deep breathing and Progressive Muscle relaxation together.
Involves creating a safe calm place for yourself in your mind where you feel safe and calm. Visualization can also involve working you through the steps of visualizing you
booking your appointment, getting to your appointment and receiving your injection while remaining calm and relaxed.
What can you do to prepare yourself if your vaccine is happening today or tomorrow?
Let the nurse know you have a needle phobia
Ask your doctor or nurse for a numbing cream prior to your vaccination appointment
Listen to what you consider calming music prior to getting your needle
Deep slowly Breathing
Progressive Muscle relaxation
Distraction – talking about something besides the needle or focusing on a spot of another object while having your needle
Overcoming your fear will take some time and practice. Do let the staff know you have a needle phobia. Do not be afraid to seek professional help in overcoming this common fear. If you have any questions or concerns about your fear of needles reach out to our staff at Family-Therapy to receive psychotherapy help to address your phobia.