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MAIN Arrow to Health Health Arrow to Lab Tests Diagnostic Tests Arrow to Fear of Needles Fear of Needles

medical needleDoes just the thought of getting a flu shot or a blood test make you sweat, shake and have a hard time breathing?

You're not alone. The fear of needles is common. Ask any mom who has to bring a baby for regular vaccinations. We learn early and often that shots are not fun, even with a reward afterwards.

Doctors estimate that about one in ten patients are so afraid of needles that it makes them avoid any suggestion of a shot or blood tests. And that can be a serious problem.

To give you some idea of how common this fear is take a look at the Wikipedia article that starts off with,

"Trypanophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles.

It is occasionally referred to as aichmophobia, belonephobia, or enetophobia, names that are technically incorrect because they simply denote a “fear of pins/needles” and do not refer to the medical aspect of trypanophobia.

The term aprilophobia may also be used to refer to the specific fear of hypodermic needles, though this term also does not refer to the medical aspect. The name that is in common usage is simply needle phobia."

Any condition that generates that many names is a topic that gets discussed... a lot.

Turning fear of needles around

The worst part about being afraid of needles is that tensing your muscles often does make getting a shot more painful. The fear almost guarantees that you'll find the experience extremely uncomfortable. You're constantly reinforcing the fear which makes it that much harder to face that needle the next time.

Knowing that being afraid of needles is pretty common doesn't help much. Vaccinations and laboratory tests are your doctor's best tools for preventing and diagnosing disease and prescribing treatments if you do get sick. There must be something that you can do to help get over this fear... at least enough to be able to face an occasional blood test or injection.

Some common treatments use self-hypnosis to calm the fear. If you've tried talking yourself into being calm and it just didn't help, that doesn't mean you can't overcome the phobia, or at least get in under control, with the help of a therapist or professional hypnotist.

This is definitely a case where acupuncture is not an option, but there are some things that a doctor who is sensitive to your fears can do. Topical lidocaine is an anesthetic that can be put on the skin to numb it before you get any needles. Some doctors will also apply a type of electrical stimulation called iontophoresis. This can help the lidocaine move deeper into the skin. There are also creams that combine lidocaine and prilocaine for stronger and deeper numbing. Other pain minimizing treatments and drugs, like laughing gas, can help you make it through. These steps may help if the pain of the injection is the problem.

Reducing anxiety about needles

In many cases, someone who has needle phobia won't be helped by reducing the pain, because the fear has been generalized. It's the needle itself that causes a panic attack. D. Keith Lamb at The Needle Phobia Information Center says, "The fear of pain is surprisingly not a common concern for needle phobes. Many serious needle phobes would opt for a more painful approach if it could avoid the needle!"

If this describes you and you need to have blood drawn or get a shot, there are many anxiety reducing medications that can be prescribed by your health care professional that can keep you calm enough to get through the experience.

Some people say that taking a quick acting anti-anxiety medication shortly before having a treatment involving needles can actually "cure" the phobia over time. Each episode that you get through without experiencing the pain and anxiety you expect, helps you to "de-program" your fear. After a few doctors visits without panic attacks, getting a shot may just become bearable.

About The Author...
The Editorial Team

More about overcoming fear of needles around the Web:

The Needle Phobia Page - A single page full of good tips and advice for overcoming fears with a good discussion on why the medical establishment should take needle phobia more seriously.

How to help kids overcome fear of needles - Helpful artile from Today's Parent on causes and ways to overcome common fears with tips on what to say and how to prepare your child for any procedure involving a needle.

This information is intended as reference and not as medical advice.
All treatment decisions should be made by medical professionals.

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