Life with needle phobia
Updated: Aug 24, 2022
Living with a phobia can be a challenge. It can affect your daily routine, your habits and even long-term life choice. But then there is a fear of needles, or trypanophobia. It has the power to cause those who suffer from this extreme fear to put their health and wellbeing on the line, just to avoid an injection. You might be asking how that can be. Well have a read about what life can really be like if you have needle phobia.
If you would like to learn more about trypanophobia, read our previous article, COVID-19 and a fear of needles. This article discusses how a needle phobia might affect those who have a fear of needles in light of the Covid-19 vaccine and offers some ideas on how to manage the phobia while having the injection.
Signs of the phobia
The natural response which the body has as a result of exposure to needles, or associated triggers, is anxiety. It is the underlying emotion, and from this is born the physical responses. An increased heart rate, increased body temperature and sweating, dizziness and a spike in blood pressure are all common symptoms.
For many people, fear of needles can be linked to fainting, or feeling faint. When the fear is triggered, the heart rate and blood pressure increase, but then rapidly drop. It is this fall in blood pressure that can cause fainting. It is this that means many people do not confront their fear, because they are embarrassed.
In terms of behavioural changes, it is common for those who suffer from needle fear to become erratic, skittish and feel emotionally vulnerable. This can cause them to lash out verbally or physically, in a bid to avoid the injection, or simply manage the experience.
While life can be influenced by trypanophobia, it’s important to talk about how this isn’t a straightforward phobia - not everyone who suffers from it is scared of the sight of a needle. In the UK, the NHS lists eight significant aspects which can generate those anxious responses.
The stereotypical aspect to a fear of needles is having an injection in your arm, where the needle is piercing the skin. But it can also be the act of holding, or even touching, a needle, even looking at photos of one. Then there are the scenes from television where someone else is getting an injection, and the sufferer may be unable to watch. They may be unable to watch someone else have an injection in real life, or hear someone talk about having an injection. And, in the most severe cases of needle phobia, even the thought of having an injection is enough to trigger them. So, if you have needle phobia and you are still reading this article, it is a positive in that the thought of needles and injections isn’t a trigger. Or the cover photo.
Living with a fear if needles can pose a further risk to a sufferers health - vaccinations. While it is true that needle phobia can commonly caused by an adverse childhood experience with needles, the requirement for booster jabs and other inoculations for travelling means that it is almost impossible to avoid injections as an adult. So, aside from the physical symptoms of trypanophobia, it can significantly impact an individuals health and wellbeing, as avoidant behaviour is a coping strategy which many will choose.
Consider global travel - the Foreign Offices and health providers will encourage or even require specific vaccinations to be received prior to arrival. Rabies, Tetanus, Hepatitis and Typhoid, all the common jabs required to visit countries in South East Asia, Africa and South America. Those with a fear of needles, and use avoidant tactics to manage it, may face the reality that some countries are simply off limits.
While it is true that no two people will have exactly the same relationship with a fear of needles, it is important to recognise that it has the strength to affect life choices, that ultimately can affect their health. Someone who has a fear of needles can benefit from support, and there is no one-size-fits-all way to go about this. So take time to understand where they are at, or where you are with the phobia and start from there.
If you can relate to any of the content discussed in this article, consider taking action to improve your overall wellbeing. oVRcome are continuing to develop their programme which utilises exposure therapy using virtual reality technology to support individuals with phobias. Why not take our Fear of Needles test and receive a free customised report with some actionable tips for your severity level?