Not wanting to go to the doctor for an injection is one thing. It is not uncommon to dread seeing your physician knowing that you’re going to have to have some form of shot. However, while most people have this discomfort around needles it is not necessarily a full-blown phobia. According to the phobia dictionary, one of the most common phobias is trypanophobia, which is the fear of needles.
It is estimated that 10% of the US population fear needles. While that is a high number in an of itself, the belief is that there is actually a larger number of people that fear needles in the United States but do not report having this condition as people who usually suffer from this condition avoid medical treatment when at all possible.
As with many phobias it is hard to pinpoint exactly where this fear originates from. Dr. James G Hamilton, a pioneer in the study of needle phobia, has suggested it is a genetic trait that has evolved over time. He believed that people learned that stab wounds were a bad idea and to avoid them at all cost. This evolution of avoiding stab wounds has included avoiding being stabbed by a needle.
However, other researchers believe that this fear could be a learned condition from a child watching apparent who reacts poorly to getting shots. It could also stem from a bad experience getting a vaccination or donating blood.
Typically, trypanophobia is related to the fear of medically related shots an injection. However, several subcategories of this can present itself. Vasovagal affects people about 50% of time. Their fear presents not when the needle is inserted into the skin but rather at the mere sight of the needle. A person that suffers from vasovagal may faint or suffer an anxiety attack when the needle comes into view. Another subcategory would be associative which affects about 30% of people with trypanophobia. This type of subcategory stems from an shamanic event that happened with the needle during a medical procedure or it could stem from witnessing a family or friend undergo such a traumatic painful medical procedure. The resistive subcategory of trypanophobia has an underlying fear not only of the needles or the injection but also being controlled restrained during the injection. A person with trypanophobia may also be hyperalgesic, which means they are not so much afraid of the actual needle but the pain that goes along with it. They are hypersensitive to the pain.
Alice Cooper is probably one of the most well-known people that has a fear of needles. He has openly joked about needles being the only thing in the world that he is actually afraid of. According to him, “I can put my head in a guillotine and play with a snake. But no – no needles!”
The fear needles is also been portrayed on television and in films. Popular characters such as the protagonists in the Dragon Ball series and as Detective Lawrence the toe of Miami Vice both had intense fears of needles.
There are many different types of treatments that a person with trypanophobia can try. For those that suffer from a fear of not only the needle but also the pain freezing agents such as ethyl chloride spray can numb the area and not to make getting a shot easy. Benzodiazepines may also alleviate the anxiety of being around needles and enough that a person can go get the necessary shots. These types of medications have a quick onset so they can be taken shortly before you go to your Dr.’s appointment.
For those who want to completely conquer their fear needles, the phobia dictionary suggests behavior therapy. Like many other cognitive behavior therapy programs the patient is taught relaxation and coping techniques to help conquer their fear. The effectiveness of behavioral therapy depends on the person and how hard they’re willing to try.
Trypanophobia is having anxiety around needles. It is a curable condition if the patient is willing to work hard to conquer their fear.