Nobody likes getting injections, but for some people, the mere mention of an injection causes crippling fear. These people suffer from needle phobia, a condition which approximately 10% of the population have, although the numbers may be considerably higher as those who suffer severely with the condition may not attend doctors due to the fear caused by their phobia.
Needle phobia is a recognised condition that is further broken down into categories:
The most common type of needle phobia, sufferers fear the sight, thought and feeling of needles and needle-like objects.
The second most common type, this is caused by a traumatic event whereby the person has experienced or witnessed someone close to them undergo a painful procedure. The individual then associates needles with the negative experience and pain.
This is when the fear is not necessarily about the needle, but about being controlled and/or restrained.
People with hyperalgesia needle phobia have a hypersensitivity to pain and perceive the pain of an injection too unbearable to tolerate.
This involves a person experiencing the symptoms of needle-phobia without actually being touched or injected, often people with this will become anxious when witnessing someone getting an injection.
Many people don’t understand the depth of a sufferer’s phobia, this is because people find it hard to differentiate between a fear and a phobia. A fear is an emotion that everyone will experience in their life, but that can be overcome. A phobia is an anxiety disorder where a person has an irrational fear of a certain object or situation. Although the fear is classed as irrational, to the person with the phobia it is a natural reaction. Phobias are not easy to overcome. People with phobias often experience negative reactions to their condition; they are laughed at, mocked and told to “get over it”. This attitude does not help the person with the phobia at all, it can actually have the opposite reaction and set the person further back in their recovery. If you know someone who suffers from a phobia it is important to try and support them and to do this you need to know what they experience.
When a person with a phobia is put in an anxious situation their heart rate will accelerate and their blood pressure will rise. As they become more anxious in the situation they can experience shaking, sweating, an upsurge in emotions such as crying or screaming. Some experience dizzy spells and light headedness, this is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure as the anxiety takes over. The heart rate can also decrease rapidly and in extreme cases can cause the person to lose consciousness. However, a person with a phobia does not only experience symptoms when put in a situation, the mere thoughts can cause panic. For example, a person with needle-phobia, if they must attend the doctor they can imagine that they will need an injection this can lead to anxiety, loss of sleep, change in appetite, loss of concentration and panic attacks.
Some people do not recognise phobias and if a person feels their phobia is not being accepted they can become angry. It is important for a person with needle-phobia to feel comfortable, they should speak to the doctor and explain their situation. Doctors deal with patients constantly and should be understanding of the patient’s condition. However, if you feel that your doctor is not taking you seriously don’t feel trapped, speak to another doctor or a nurse.
For a person with haemophilia or their family, needle-phobia can present a lot of problems. Prophylaxis means two to three infusions a week and more when a bleed occurs. Unfortunately, in most cases of people with needle-phobia who have a bleeding disorder themselves or in the family, there is little option, but to face the phobia. This will not happen overnight, but there are steps to take in conquering the phobia; the first step is to talk to a doctor or nurse about your phobia and they can come up with a programme to help you. Some methods that have worked for people with needle-phobia include:
- Anxiety Medication
- Aversion therapy; where the patient is gradually reintroduced to needles
Not every treatment will work, everyone is different so what works for one may not work for you, but don’t lose faith. It may be a long process, but the result will be worth it.
It is common for children to be afraid of needles, but most will outgrow this fear. The way this fear is handled and can help prevent needle-phobia. Holding a child down to infuse them will only add to their anxiety and stress. It may be necessary for the child to get an infusion, but if the child is on prophylaxis it is not practical for the child to be continuously held down. There are methods to try:
Knowing that a needle is coming, the child can become so intense that a breakdown occurs. Keep the child occupied and divert their attention from what is ahead. Although they may still get upset, it will be less severe for them.
Have a set toy or doll that the child can have when getting their infusions, this will comfort and soothe them.
Show and Tell
Often the child can think this is something only they go through. Arrange to have blood taken or get an injection yourself and have your child there to help you, seeing you be strong will have an impact on them.
Let them mix the factor and put on the tourniquet themselves, involving them in the process will make it feel less forced.
Take it slow
Most people have the mindset of I’ll do it quickly and get it over with. Rushing can lead to accidents and make the child more anxious, take your time and move at a relaxed pace this will make the child more relaxed.
If all else fails tempt them with something; an ice cream, a trip to the park etc. This may trigger an association of injections with rewards and help calm the fear. Just be careful not to get caught in a trap of constantly buying presents.
For a parent suffering from needle phobia it is important to try to hide your fear from your child as they can pick up on your anxiety and can become more nervous.
Approximately 80% of people with needle-phobia have a member of their immediate family (parent, child or sibling) who also suffers from this phobia. An episode of needle-phobia can affect those present as well as the patient themselves. There is strength in numbers, so get involved in your relative’s recovery or get them to get involved in yours!
To anyone suffering from needle-phobia, please know that it can be overcome, don’t lose faith.