No one likes to get stuck by a needle. Whether for a blood test, vaccination or blood donation, needle sticks are something most people would prefer to avoid.
However, judging by vaccination schedules and routine testing alone, the average healthy person can expect at least 165 needle sticks over a lifetime. Stay hospitalized? This could add dozens or even hundreds more. And the number of needle sticks experienced by people with diabetes, HIV and some other diseases ranges in the “don’t ask” range.
For many, this can be more of a hassle than a real problem. But if you have a strong fear of needles or aversion to the sight of blood, vaccination or any other needle is a great thing. If you feel like it, you may have trypanophobia.
What is trippanophobia?
Appropriately, the name combines the Greek term trypano – which means to puncture or pierce – with phobia, which means by. This extraordinarily common condition is marked by irrational, extreme fear, or aversion to blood or needles. It is estimated that fear of needles affects up to 25% of adults, and can lead to 16% of the population in the US omit vaccines. Many people who are strongly afraid of needle sticks can avoid doctors and medical care, so the magnitude of this problem is likely to be underestimated.
To be clear: this phobia is like that no it is limited to people who are too sensitive to pain or who are not “strong enough”. It can affect anyone. The cause is often unknown, but a particularly traumatic experience during childhood medical illness can set the stage for some people. And there may be one genetic component. Researchers have found genes related to fainting after needles, and trypanophobia sometimes happens in families.
What are the symptoms of this phobia?
People with trypanophobia who contemplate a needle stick may experience it
- fear or anxiety
- panic attacks, nausea or sweating
- fainting (due to a reflex in which the pain or sight of the blood causes a drop in blood pressure)
- insomnia the days or weeks before the scheduled needle.
How does being afraid of needles affect you?
This fear can affect you
- life quality: It is quite unpleasant to spend weeks fearing an appointment with a doctor.
- Health: Skipping the recommended tests and treatment to avoid needle sticks can lead to missed diagnoses, poorly controlled medical conditions, and inadequate treatment. A timely example is to give up a vaccine against COVID-19, which can have serious or even fatal consequences. Also, drug dealers sometimes gamble on it fear of needles in their advertising, or may minimize the fact that a drug requires an injection.
- longevity: Skipping routine medical care can contribute to suffering and dying. For example, a cancerous knot that might have been detected during routine examination may go unnoticed until much later, when it can no longer be cured.
What can you do to deal with the fear of needles?
There is not much high quality research the best way to treat trypanosophobia. Still, experts suggest several options to help people cope.
- Bring assistance, if allowed. This is routine for young children. But holding hands or hearing the voice of a spouse, trusted friend, or family member can also calm adults.
- Harness the power of distraction (see this amazing video of a pediatrician distracting a young child before a vaccination). Focus on anything other than the needle stick: a point on the ground, the positive effects of getting a COVID-19 vaccine (you’ll be able to hug your family soon!) Or the next vacation.
- Tell the person who is shooting you or drawing blood that you have problems with this and let them know what works best for you. Some people prefer to know each step before it happens, so there are no surprises. Ask if your healthcare provider has professional tricks to help you overcome it.
- Ask the person giving you a shot or drawing blood if they can use a novocaine-like numbing agent or a freezer spray to numb the skin before a needle sticks.
- Don’t look! It is not useful to see all the preparation of the needle attached or to see the needle itself. Seeing can make things worse.
- Learn ways to relax. Try it deep breathing or others relaxation techniques which you can practice before you have the needle attached.
- Also relax the muscle receiving the injection. Some shots, such as vaccines that protect you against tetanus or COVID-19, occur in a muscle. Muscle relaxation can lessen the pain of these prey.
- Stretch before you have the needle stick, if in the past you fainted or felt annoyed with needle sticks.
Can therapy help?
Consulting a mental health specialist can be helpful. You can recommend it
- cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, which teaches people ways to rethink useless ways of thinking and build coping strategies.
- Exposure therapy, a gradual and supervised increase in exposure to the needles, which can lessen the panic they cause. For example, for several weeks you may be asked to look at pictures of needles, to have a syringe without a needle, to have a syringe with a needle, and then to imagine the injection, all with the guidance of a therapist. , before having one.
- medications, such as anti-anxiety medications or sedatives, may be prescribed if other measures are not effective and anxiety around the needle sticks is obstructing medical attention (or simply making it unfortunate).
It is natural to have an aversion to pain, even when it is known to be approaching and albeit for a good reason. So if you’re one of the millions who care about getting a COVID-19 vaccine, a blood test, or any other needle stick, you know you’re not alone and can do things to improve the situation. Talk to your doctor about your fear and get help if you need it. Your quality of life, health and longevity could depend on it.
As for me, I will do what I always do: look away and stare at that place on the ground.
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