March 29, 2021
Do you tremble at the thought of having your blood drawn or getting a shot? You’re not alone. In fact, more than 1 in 10 American adults suffer from a fear of needles — also known as trypanophobia. This fear can cause extreme symptoms of anxiety, including increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and a sense of dread, any time you are exposed to a needle or expecting a shot.
In normal times, needle anxiety can lead to people putting off important treatments. Now, with the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more widely available, facing this fear is essential. Here’s how:
An important strategy for dealing with needle anxiety is to face it head-on before you have to schedule a medical procedure. Consider why needles cause feelings of anxiety and identify the root of your fear. It can also be helpful to learn more about the procedure and the safety guidelines in place to protect patients.
Because needle anxiety is so common, there are plenty of people to talk to about it — including many who have overcome the phobia themselves! Being open about your anxiety can help you understand and overcome your fear with confidence. A counselor can also be helpful in addition to the support of those who have experienced and conquered needle anxiety themselves.
Whether you’re in the car, waiting room, or the exam room, it’s likely that someone with needle phobia will experience some symptoms of anxiety no matter how well they prepare. Try deep breathing: take three slow, deep breaths, count to three, and repeat. Closing your eyes and counting, or meditating, can also help relax your body and ease your symptoms.
Even the sight of a needle can be panic-inducing for someone with trypanophobia. Plan to look away or close your eyes before the needle comes out and focus on the relaxation techniques above. If you aren’t otherwise limited and are having blood drawn, be sure to drink plenty of water prior to the test. Hydrated veins are easier to find, resulting in a faster procedure. A final tip: cough as the needle is about to enter your skin. Research indicates it can lessen the pain for some people.
Children receiving an injection often receive numbing cream or ice afterward to ease any discomfort. Even as an adult, it’s acceptable to ask for some kind of topical anesthesia to make your experience more tolerable. Combined with looking away during the procedure, you may not even notice the needle at all.
Most importantly, don’t delay treatments because of your anxiety. Lean on your support network and follow these strategies to overcome your fear and stay on the road to wellness.