Trypanophobia is a very real phobia affecting nearly 3.5 to 10% of the world’s population. It consists of an irrational or excessive fear of needles, pins or injections. While most people, children especially, fear getting their vaccination shots or blood samples taken, in case of people with extreme fear of needles, the idea of getting one triggers an immediate anxiety response.
In very severe cases of Trypanophobia, the avoidance, anxiety or distress associated with the condition may interfere with one’s daily routine, occupational functioning or social and personal relationships.
Causes of the fear of needles phobia
Before discussing common causes of Trypanophobia, it is first essential to distinguish between normal childhood fear and actual fear of needles phobia. Crying, tantrums, clinging, freezing in children before an injection shot is common behavior in preschoolers but will not interfere with one’s daily activities. In adults however, the phobia can lead to behavior problems as well as extreme avoidance and anxiety symptoms.
Doctors have various explanations for the fear of needles phobia:
- Injections are generally unpleasant for most people. In case of Trypanophobia, the person might have a painful memory or a frightening experience with his first injection. For a child, getting an injection from a doctor, a stranger, is in itself frightening. S/he is unable to understand why the parents are not protecting one from the pain.
- Parents, grandparents and caregivers may also be responsible for instilling a fear of needles in the child. One often uses statements like: “Stay away from infected needles, you may catch a disease”, or “be brave when you get your shot” etc and these can lead to fearful thoughts about needles.
- If a significant adult in one’s life displays the fear of needles, then the child unknowingly learns it.
- A child might have seen an elderly relative receiving a shot and then passing away later. This forms an unpleasant association between needles and death.
- Receiving bad news like testing positive for a serious disease after a blood test or that of the death of a close friend/family member while seeing needles at the same time can lead to fear of needles.
- Drawing blood, feeling faint, or having an increased heart rate are a few more negative associations with needles. Some individuals simply worry about embarrassing themselves by fainting and hence they tend to avoid needles completely.
Symptoms of Trypanophobia
Symptoms of the fear of needles phobia can be physical or psychological:
- Feeling faint, passing out at the sight or thought of needles
- Having an increased heart rate or blood pressure
- Shortness of breath, dry mouth, tremors, and nausea are a few more physical symptoms of Trypanophobia.
- Full blown panic attack is likely when the person fears s/he cannot escape the needles
- Frightening thoughts and images about needles, death, pain etc lead one to be unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
Apart from fear of needles, many Trypanophobic individuals fear everything related to blood and gore.
Treatments available for overcoming Trypanophobia
- As is the case with other phobias, Trypanophobia can be overcome by using systematic desensitization. This process involves gradual exposure to needles so that, with repetition and practice, the process of getting an injection loses its ‘anxiety-causing’ power. This therapy can be self administered, or one can take help from a therapist.
- Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive behavior therapy are other techniques that help manage the negative thoughts and responses to needles and injections. Strategies implemented here include writing down fearful thoughts and changing them into positive ones etc.
- Another highly beneficial therapy that takes effect in a very short time is one-on-one clinical hypnotherapy. These sessions induce deep relaxation in the patient and help explore roots of the phobia. Visualization techniques can be then utilized cope with the fear in a positive manner.
- Self help techniques like deep breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation are also recommended for overcoming Trypanophobia.
Trypanophobia is a phobia affecting many people. However, it need not take control over one’s life and simple exercises and practices can be used to overcome it.
So I have this phobia bad. I think my fear stems from my childhood trauma of being 13 years old and coming home from school, seeing my mom with a needle in her arm, oding on the couch in our living room, and then seeing the paramedics give her the two shots of Narcan. My sister and I had to call the neighbor – who was also a user – and stay over there because my dad was at work.
I have a fear of needles and this helped me with how I should handle it.
For all my life, I’ve been aware of my fear of needles. Just reading through this article was extremely uncomfortable. And if you don’t believe me, ask the 6 pediatric clinic staff that had to pin me down just to do that finger prick thing for my annual check-up. Even though I was still a child at the time, I’d think that would be extreme enough to qualify as a phobia.
For the past few years, I’ve been trying to lessen my anxiety when it comes to needles and injections. In January of this year, I actually built up the courage to participate in a blood drive of all things. I still consider trypanophobia to be my strongest phobia, with acrophobia being a close second, but at least I’m improving a little.
There are two things that help me overcome the times I am poked at the doctor. The first and most predictable of the two are me telling myself that this will help me or someone else, or that I don’t have a say in the matter anyway (looking at you Dr. Banisch, with your constant blood drawing requests to check medication levels in my body).
The second one is something I request to every person who pokes me, and it’s very abnormal for a person with this fear. One, I need a countdown, which is pretty normal; and two, I HAVE to watch it go in. I need to do this because even with a countdown, if I can’t physically see it go in, I’m not fully prepared. I want to know for sure the exact moment it goes in so I’m not caught off guard.
Now that I’m done with this not-so-mini-essay, I actually feel calmer than when I started typing. So just in case you don’t think it does, exposure therapy works.
Don’t fall off your chairs. I had this kind of phobia too. My doctor as I was a child and got shots were too dumb to remove the air from the syringe. If it would be in my veins I would be dead. So it hurt very bad and I was kind of traumatized. Since I need a treatment for which I must often get my blood examined, I tried to lose this fear. I even pierced a hypodermic needle through the skin on my arm (NOT in, just through the 2nd skin layer that it came out at another point). It seems I’ve lost my fear. I can even watch the nurse drawing my blood. Oh just by the way, NEVER stick needles (not even sterile ones) through your skin except when you know what you’re doing. It’s called “play piercing”, it has no medicinal purpose, and some people get about 80 needles placed on their back. Just for fun. Most find this scary.
This is weird, but whenever I hear the word needle or injection in this context, I get really fidgety, shaky, nauseous, and feel the strange need to constantly move my ankles and wrists. Even writing this, I can’t stop moving my feet around. Sorry if I didn’t explain it well, but does anyone know why this occurs?
People with fear of spiders: it’s not that bad, it’s just a needle.
Me: I think there’s a spider in your hair.
But seriously, this is a real fear that I, along with many other people have and shouldn’t be made fun of.
I am curious about those that have this phobia, if another form of injection were to exist and replace physical stainless-steel needles, would you still fear injections? I ask because I am studying the use of microscopic bubbles that can generate tiny liquid jets fast enough to create a tiny hole (smaller than the smallest available needle) in skin without using a needle.
Hm, I’m not sure. Probably not, but people are kinda inconsistent. I have this fear, but that’s just my opinion. Sorry if that doesn’t help.
Maybe – my fear stems from my inability to control my response. I’m less afraid of the pain and more afraid of not being able to be in control of my panic attack response. I’m afraid I will flail my arm with a needle inside and break it off or jab myself worse. I had a bad orthodontist experience as a kid – injection in the joint of my jaw. I could hear the muscles cracking, wanted so badly to bite my mouth shut. Scarred for life. Now every needle comes with hyperventilation and panic attack. I can’t sit still and need to flee as soon as I see the doc reaching for the needle.
As a trypanophobiac, this sounds much nicer.
I am a foreign service kid so I always have to get shots, and whenever I do, I almost always get dizzy and feel faint. I also have white coats syndrome, so that’s not too great.
I don’t like needles. I will run away if i see one.
I have bad Trypanophobia due to some traumatic experiences when I was 5-7 with needles. I’m required to get several needles for school and I’m petrified. Just thinking about it I’m sweating and lightheaded and dizzy and I’m having trouble typing because my arms and feet are numb. I know I’m going to completely embarrass myself at school in a couple days. Oh. No.
I know exactly how you feel, when I was 6 I screamed when I had my shot.
During a presentation by a veteran last year I fainted cause he started talking about having to get shots and cutting peoples throats. This year while watching a video about how they treated small pox by cutting their arms with the puss I had a panic attack. Recently I got a lot of pimples extracted and the derm told me she was going to use a needle and about halfway into it, even though the pain wasn’t too bad, I had a severe panic attack and thought I was going to pass out.
Okay I hope someone could respond. So basically needles themselves don’t cause severe anxiety to me, but the idea of a needle in my vein causes me to end up on the verge of a panic attack, For example, flu shots for me aren’t an issue at all, easy-prays. But like the idea of an IV or having to get blood drawn makes me feel like I am going to pass out. I’m 16 and luckily I have never had to have an IV, but I’m extremely anxious about even the possibility of it. Up until I attempted to donate blood, the idea of needles in my vein for a short period of time wasn’t that scary to me. But I started feeling faint and had to stop my donation due to chances of fainting. I’m extremely terrified about situations like this and what to do. If anyone could be of any help, thank you!
I have trypanophobia. I know I’ll be fine, but I freak out. And I’m not talking a normal amount, like maybe a tiny stomach ache or something, I’m talking full on panic attacks. I haven’t actually passed out, but I’ve been really close. I’m 12, and a couple weeks ago I was at the children’s hospital for an appointment, and my mom told them to give me my flu shot. I freaked out, and they had to give me a teddy bear to squeeze. Also, I’m very small (12 years old, 4’8 66 pounds) and my parents are both tall (5’5 and 6’3), so I have to go to an endocrinologist, and she wants to do all sorts of fun blood tests on me. I think the origin of my phobia is that when I was 8, I got a MRSA infection in my leg, and they had to lance it, if you don’t know what that means, spare yourself the details and don’t look it up, but basically they cut it and wash inside. My mom had no idea how bad it was, so I was awake for the whole thing and on pain killers that barely worked. They needed probably 7 nurses: 5 or 6 to hold me down and 1 or 2 to do the procedure. They probably heard me screaming in the hospital lobby. My phobia first started developing around 9-10, but since a couple years ago it has been awful.
I haven’t had any bad experiences with needles, but every time I have to get a vaccine or something I have a full blown panic attack.
I hate getting needles from the doctor. It makes me so nervous like when I’m about to do a presentation! I feel all squarmy and usually my stomach feels a little weird. Seriously my Trypanophobia is serious, it’s not good along with my fear of doing presentations and a bit of fear of the dark and small spaces.
2 words, allergy shots
that’s 4 words
I cry whenever i see a needle.
I don’t have a fear of sewing needles, just injection needles. Whenever I am about to get a shot or get my blood drawn, I start to hyperventilate. Just reading these comments makes me scared. Over the summer, I had to get my blood drawn. The person doing the injection poked the needle in the wrong spot and had to poke the needle in my right arm instead. There was a tube hooked up to it, so I focused my eyes on the tube (I get nervous when I can’t see the needle going into my skin, so I look at it out of the corner of my eye). I thought the blood would slowly fill up to the top of the tube. I was so wrong. It was disgusting. The blood, instead of rising up to the fill line, gushed into the container. It was brutal. I hated it. It was going so fast and when I saw how much blood was taken, I almost fainted. I stumbled a little on my way out with my mom.
That’s weird. I get nervous when I SEE the needle getting inserted into my skin. I always had to look away.
I haven’t had a flu shot since I was 6. My mom said that I will fight and run away to not get my flu shot. So she stop trying to bring me to the doctor. And now she doesn’t bring me there.
Ms. Ya says
I also think I have this phobia. I just can’t help thinking about the needle going into my arm and slicing my vein if I move at all so I am deathly afraid of it. I know it doesn’t work like that but it scares me so bad.
What happens with me, is that I begin to breath heavy, and then I feel like the walls are closing in. I feel it stems from when I was young, I had to get teeth pulled, and the surgeons were rough, and when I had a panic attack, they told me to stop moving and be silent.
Lunch downs says
Grown ups need to be more careful and gentle when dealing with children.
I have this because when I was 12 I was very sick and the doctor gave me some shots and I passed out probably mostly because I was very sick and weak. Ever since then when I get a shot or give blood I will get cold clammy my heart will beat like crazy and I will pass out. I have been able to do flu shots now because the needle is so small but anything else and giving blood samples i cant do it. What I do is when I need to have a shot or give a blood sample I tell the person I need to lay down flat so they will take me to a bed or a chair that leans all the way back, or even on the floor when they do it and of course I look away, and I get through it fine. So if you have a similar issue next time ask to lie down and do it and you will be ok.
Evan Oswald says
I hate needles they just scare me for no reason and i feel like i am going to die when i get a shot. One reason why i hate them is because my friend smacks my arm all day after them and it hurts super bad.
bob the builder says
Why is (s) he your friend then?
I am a 11 year old kid I keep on having nightmares about needles and shots my most concerning fear I’ve had so far is the flu shot and the agony and pain it brings and I was relived how on 2016 there was a nasal flu shot but I was dissipointed when now in 2017 they got rid of it but it worked for me so I’m hoping that another non needle flu shot will pop up at the last second.
Mrs. Kim says
Hi. I think i have trypanophobia, because of my fear on injection. I even cheat on my medical exam at school, because they require us to have blood tests, and the last time i tried to have a blood test i thought i was going to pass out, almost all the symptoms are in me. I think that id rather die than have an injection because of my fear. I have fear of dogs, every time i see a dog im really scared that they might bite me and i have to suffer from getting a vaccine and sometimes i think i can never overcome my fear of injection.
You are not alone, Mrs. Kim. I have always thought that I am the King of Trypanophobia. I simply never knew there was such a phobia. But from my childhood I was fully aware of my terror regarding needles. It went way beyond a simple childhood fear of shots. Even now, at the age of 63, when my doctors are encouraging me to get flu shots, shingles shots, and various “injections” (spinal and all), there is no way I’m about to yield to those horrific demands! Just thinking about a needle piercing into one of my veins or arteries sends my blood pressure soaring, my breath leaves me, my saliva dries up, and I begin to feel my feet turn to water.
As a man, I generally have no fear of much of anything. Intruders, dogs, gunshots, loud noises, lightning, etc. But this “needle” phobia is something very different! Believe me, it’s extremely embarrassing to be a man of 63, acting like a baby about this matter. Up till now I have been able to successful fend off all my physicians’ attempts to assault me with their recommended “injections.” But this is an irrational phobia that completely takes over all rational thought processes and turns a man of courage into a sniveling wimp. I don’t get it! HELP!!
I’m just as phobic as this person is. They need to gas me with sevoflurane in the OR. Even in there I’m a wreck asking what’s this who’s that etc. I had 5 med staff attaching things to me, talking to me this past August, but I shot up off the operating table and hollered one at a time. I was shaking, mad and scared.
I know that soon i will need to get injected. I get panic attacks, and id rather die than getting a shot. I had this fear for only 5 years, but its really bad :(
Kay C. says
I have a severe fear of needles due to an extremely disturbing experience that happened when I was about 6 or 7. I went to the doctor to have blood work, and when they brought out the needle, I literally started screaming and ran for the door. My mother then scolded me, grabbed me by the shirt, and pulled me back over to the chair. I was screaming quite loud, so my mother put her hand over my mouth while I cried. She didn’t know she was also covering my nose. My mother and the doctor thought I was just scared, but not only was I scared, I also couldn’t breathe. I now almost have a panic attack anytime someone even talks about me getting a shot. Thanks, mom.
Sorry for your inconvenience.
I’ve experienced the same thing, except my mom didn’t do anything.. I was 7.. I screamed like i was about to die, and now i’ve got this fear for my entire life ;( nurses were very rude..
My first shot sucked too. I was screaming and yelling and crying, and my mom was trying to distract me by playing “I Spy”. Unfortunately, I didn’t give in, and screamed as I was pierced. I have also ended up being put in a certain chair for bloodwork where there were rings around your arms and you couldn’t move them. i kicked my doctor in the gut. Another time, I was having a checkup and out of nowhere my doctor notifies me of getting 2 injections. I had a full blown panic attack and my arms and legs had to be basically pinned against the bed by my dad and a doctor. My dad isn’t aware of my Trypanophobia, so he makes fun of it. He’s only brave because he does a lot on OneBlood donations!
I have moderate to severe trypanophobia, to the extent that I avoid medical treatment for fear that I might need an injection. In several cases, I have physically resisted medical staff when treatment required one. The sight of blood or needles makes me light-headed, especially if it’s my blood. Thinking about medical procedures involving needles can almost trigger a panic attack (once when I was driving – bad news). I can get shots, but the intense fear I feel before, during, and after the injection don’t make it worth it to me. The fear is extremely debilitating.
I have I would say the most extreme fear of injections and opted the possibility once of loosing my baby rather than having a needle. I will not ever consent to one even to save my life. I once set off an alarm I was hooked up to thinking I was getting gas to be put to sleep and when I saw the needle the alarm went off and only then did the doctor realize mine was a real fear. I have tattoo’s and it is not the pain at all and you can’t just turn your head and not look like people say. I went back to work as a vet nurse only to realize my phobia had gotten worse and the more I was exposed to having or trying to give a needle the worse I got until I quit. I used to be able to get gas to put me to sleep long enough until they gave me the real needle which worked great but now I just get belittled like a baby for being a sook. I no longer go the doctors because there is no point, I can’t get a blood test and I’m not too far off wanting to take my own life due to the amount of pain I’m in. So just about all think it’s something I can control.