What Is Trypanophobia Exactly
Fear of needles is a “specific phobia,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition of the American Psychiatric Association, a guidebook for mental health professionals. “A specific phobia starts as a reasonable, healthy, and evolutionarily advantageous alert that something dangerous may be going on,”Petros Levounis, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and chief of service at University Hospital, tells Health. “However, this initially normal defense mechanism, which is intended to protect the individual from harm, can intensify and eventually cross over to a debilitating psychiatric disorder.”
Trypanophobia can be a problem for a range of medical procedures, including vaccinations, having blood drawn, needing IV fluids, and getting anesthesia.
There’s not a lot of literature on where trypanophobia comes from, but there are some theories that it may be related to a survival instinct that keeps you from wanting to have your body punctured by anything. Fear of the pain and fear of the unknown can also play a role, clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Health. “There is something unknown to you being put into your bodywe are not in control,” he points out, noting that can be terrifying for some.
Covid Vaccine And Needle Phobia: ‘it Feels Like The World Is Ending’
Adam really wants to get vaccinated against Covid-19, but an extreme fear of needles is holding him back.
The 23-year-old from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, says it’s not the pain he’s afraid of. For him, it’s the thought of the injection itself – and the needle piercing his skin.
“It feels like the world is ending in that moment,” Adam says.
“It feels like you have no way out, you can’t do anything, your heart rate’s pushing 200, you can’t focus on anything.
“It’s about a pathological fear of needles.”
In total, over 85 million doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered across the UK.
But a recent Oxford University survey of more than 15,000 adults in the UK suggests needle phobia accounts for about 10% of Covid vaccine hesitancy.
More than 68% of 18 to 29-year-olds in England have had a first jab, while 88.6% of all UK adults have had one.
The survey suggests reluctance to get the Covid jab is generally a bit higher in younger people and some ethnic minority groups.
Adam has severe anxiety – and he thinks his needle phobia developed after he had his ear pierced when he was eight.
It took weeks for him to get himself to a vaccine centre to even attempt to get a Covid jab. But when he saw his local hospital’s vaccine centre put a message out on Facebook offering support to anyone nervous about the jab, Adam decided to take the plunge.
Fear Of Needles: The Fatal Phobia
It is rare to find an individual who actually enjoys getting his or her annual flu shot, but there is a significant segment of the population whose phobia of injections is so severe it prevents them from seeking medical care altogether.
Trypanophobia, fear of needles, also known as needle phobia, is the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It is a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognized phobia affecting approximately 50 million Americans, making it a top-ten American fear.1 People who suffer from this at times debilitating condition can experience symptoms including hypertension, rapid heart rate or heart palpitations and even fainting or loss of consciousness.2 These physical manifestations of the phobia can also trigger feelings of anxiety and hostility toward the medical community as a whole.
Not only are the symptoms themselves harmful to the individuals health, but the fear associated with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can and often does prevent people from seeking treatment for any number of serious ailments. Of those suffering from needle phobia, it has been reported that at least 20 percent avoid any medical treatment as a result.1 In fact, in a 2012 survey conducted by Target and Harris Interactive, out of the 60 percent of American adults who choose not to receive a flu vaccination, 23 percent stated the reason is a fear of needles. 3
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Treatment Mitigation And Alternatives
The medical literature suggests a number of treatments that have been proven effective for specific cases of needle phobia, but provides very little guidance to predict which treatment may be effective for any specific case. The following are some of the treatments that have been shown to be effective in some specific cases.
How To Overcome A Fear Of Needles
Sometimes it took three nurses to hold me down. This may sound extreme, but it was entirely necessary, as I had a tendency to cry, squirm my way out of my chair and run down the hallway of the pediatric phlebotomy department to escape.
It was the summer between second grade and third grade, and because of complications with the chickenpox virus, I ended up with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which meant I needed to get my blood drawn weekly. ITP is a blood disorder characterized by low platelet counts and bruising very easily and can look a lot like leukemia. In order to make sure my counts weren’t veering into dangerous territory, I had a standing weekly appointment for a blood test for an entire summer.
I’m not sure who dreaded these appointments more: me or the nurses tasked with collecting my blood samples. As soon as I’d sit in that hard plastic chair with one elongated armrest, I would transform from a sassy but mild-mannered 7-year-old into a creature from a horror film. I had always been scared of needles, but this time, it wasn’t just a vaccine I was getting in the school nurse’s office. I knew the results of this blood test could mean I was sick enough to have to stay in the hospital overnight.
And strangely, one day, it was. But before I get into what ended up finally working for me, here’s what I learned from speaking to two physicians about trypanophobia a fancy word for the extreme fear of needles.
What causes a fear of needles?
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Dont Rush The Procedure
What often happens in these cases is that the nurse is in a hurry, gets tired of waiting for the patient to stop acting out and simply gets a few helpers to restrain the patient while she performs the procedure. There are two outcomes to this strategy:
- Yes, you get the patients blood, or you successfully administer the injection. For some nurses who are just there to do their job, this is enough and they consider the procedure to have been successful.
- You lose your patients trust. In cases where the patient has an extreme fear or phobia you are simply adding to that fear by having him or her restrained. In addition they are unlikely to trust you, or any other health care professional for that matter, who comes near them with a needle from that point onwards. This is something that nurses who care deeply for the well being of their patients will try to avoid at all costs.
Is It Possible For People To Overcome Needle Phobia So They Can Easily Get Vaccines
Yes. The strategies that work the best ranges from simple distraction to hypnosis or behavioral therapy. People of all ages can go through relatively short-term treatment to improve or overcome needle phobia.
For many people, once theyve completed treatment, theyre done and the phobia no longer impacts their life, while others may need regular tune-ups to get back on track, Rollins said.
The goal isnt to learn to love needles. Its to get to a place where you can get a shot or have blood taken with the mild discomfort everyone experiences.
She encourages people of all ages to seek help if they need it, especially kids who need to get vaccines frequently.
All kids can have a one-off experience with a shot where they are way more distressed than usual, but you know its turned into more of a phobia when the distress is happening more often than not, when everyone involved feels traumatized afterward, or if the child starts experiencing anxiety well before the doctors appointment, Rollins said.
Vaccines are essential to protect children and people of all ages. And COVID-19 vaccines for children under age 12 are being tested on small groups of children now and could be ready by the end of summer. So, Rollins said now is a great time to think about getting help for children who need it.
You have time to see someone, Rollins said. People can get past needle phobia.
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How Does Being Afraid Of Needles Affect You
This fear can affect your
- quality of life: Its quite unpleasant to spend weeks dreading an upcoming doctors appointment.
- health: Skipping recommended tests and treatment to avoid needle sticks can lead to missed diagnoses, poorly monitored medical conditions, and undertreatment. A timely example is foregoing a vaccination against COVID-19, which can have serious or even deadly consequences. Also, drug marketers sometimes play on fear of needles in their advertising, or might downplay the fact that a medication requires an injection.
- longevity: Skipping routine medical care can contribute to avoidable suffering and death. For example, a cancerous breast lump that might have been detected during routine examination may go unnoticed until much later, when its no longer curable.
Terrified Of Needles That Can Affect Your Health
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
No one likes getting stuck by a needle. Whether for a blood test, vaccination, or blood donation, needle sticks are something most people would prefer to avoid.
Yet, judging only by schedules for routine vaccinations and tests, the average healthy person can expect at least 165 needle sticks over a lifetime. Get hospitalized? That might add dozens or even hundreds more. And the number of needle sticks experienced by people with diabetes, HIV, and some other illnesses hovers in the dont ask range.
For many, this may be more of an annoyance than a real problem. But if you have a strong fear of needles or aversion to the sight of blood, getting a vaccination or any other needle stick is a big deal. If this sounds like you, you may have trypanophobia.
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How To Deal With Patients Who Have A Phobia For Needles And Injections
February 5, 2017 By admin
Being a nurse can be difficult as it is, but the job is made even harder when you have to deal with patients who are afraid of needles and injections. This is a very common situation that you will find yourself in. In addition it is not only children who suffer from this phobia. Adults can also be completely immobilized by their fear of needles. As a nurse you need to know how to handle this situation when it arises.
Going Through With It
Freshly equipped with knowledge of the CARD system and applied tension, Curran arrived at the pharmacy for his vaccination appointment. He had called around to make sure all his friends knew it was happening; he wanted the peer pressure so he wouldnt back out.
Checking in, Currans hands were shaking, he was sweating profusely, and he felt hot. They went to take his temperature. Dont even bother, he was thinking. Its a million degrees right now.
He sat down, lifted his sleeve, looked away, tensed his muscles, except for his left arm, and it was done. He took a minute to shake off the really gross feeling of what had just happened, then sat as long as he could for observation before walking out into the sunshine and fresh air of the parking lot.
Having faced his fear, does Curran have advice for others who are afraid?
Nothing helps, he said. Its awful. From someone who has the same phobia, it sucks. Nothing helps. You just have to do it.
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Definition Of Needle Phobia
According to the DSM-5 , a tool used by professionals for diagnosis, needle phobia is a type of specific phobia. Its main features include:
- Exposure to needles almost invariably provokes immediate anxiety.
- Situations involving needles are avoided or are endured with intense anxiety or distress.
- The avoidance, fear and distress around needles interfere significantly with the person’s life.
It can affect a person’s medical health because it leads people to avoid getting proper health care. It can also cause significant social problems because immunizations or blood testing can be required for employment, getting health insurance, travel, education and marriage.
What To Do About Needle Phobia
Healthcare professionals need to realise the importance of needle phobia. It can be frustrating in a busy clinic to find a patient with needle phobia. However, this needs to be treated with patience and kindness. Lets remember that pain management is a human right.
Now, amid the COVID-29 pandemic, is a perfect time to address this problem, help patients overcome their fears, and improve their opportunities for healthcare in the future.
Patients can be referred to the Psychology Team for further help. The technique employed is often to break the process of venepunctures into a series of small steps
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How Common Is Needle Phobia And Does It Result In Vaccine Hesitancy
Needle phobia is so common that theres even a fancy name for it: trypanophobia.
A recent meta-analysis of multiple research studies found that a majority of children suffer from needle fear or phobia, while as many as half of teens and one-third of young adults suffer from needle phobia.
The analysis found that its common for people to avoid annual flu shots and other vaccines due to their needle phobia.
Does Exposure Therapy For Needle Phobia Work
Yes. Rollins encourages early treatment but said many patients can meet with a behavioral health expert for short-term treatment and meet their goals.
You can make the experience of getting vaccines markedly less anxiety-provoking, Rollins said.
Most adults and parents of frightened children dont realize that they can get help.
Many parents have resigned themselves to dragging kids in kicking and screaming for vaccines and doing the walk of embarrassment afterward, but thats not the only option, Rollins said.
Mindset Techniques For Overcoming A Fear Of Needles
Focusing on the positive of any situation helps.
Ignore the misinformation about the vaccine. Duncan says she believes much of the needle anxiety about the COVID-19 vaccine is related to unfounded myths about the vaccination, such as that the injection implants a government-monitored microchip into your arm. Ignoring this misinformation — or better yet, studying up on the facts — can diminish the phobia if it’s primarily related to vaccine myths, Duncan says.
Try to focus on the positives of the process. “Imbuing any task, however unpleasant, with personal meaning can change the mundane and uncomfortable to something satisfying and positive,” Ditzell says. Remember that by getting the vaccine, you are protecting yourself and people you love from falling ill with a deadly virus. Being vaccinated also means you can follow the Centers for Dis’s new guidelines for vaccinated people, which includes gathering in small groups. Think about how great it will be to visit your friends and family without fear of catching or spreading COVID-19!
Thinking about fulfilling your social responsibility to others. This will help provide context to the situation and can make you feel more determined to get the vaccine despite fears. Leading up to your appointment, remind yourself that your vaccination means the world is one step closer to the end of the pandemic and being able to safely enjoy pre-COVID-19 activities again.
When And Where To Get Help
It is normal for many children to dislike needles. But if it’s to the point where your child is refusing and/or too overwhelmed to have a needle, you might consider doing the following:
- Speak to your child’s doctor
- Speak to your local pediatric hospital: Most children’s hospitals have books, videos or other resources to help teach the importance of needles to children.
- Speak to a psychologist
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Why Do Some People Develop Needle Phobia
The cause of needle phobia may never be discovered. However, 80% of those affected have a first-degree relative who suffers from the same condition. It may be this is a learned response.
Sometimes, needle phobia may develop following a long period of illness such as treatment for childhood cancer, or witnessing a close relative go through a protracted period of medical care.
There may be genetic differences in peoples perception of pain, meaning some experience far more pain than others being pricked by a needle. Interestingly, needle phobia is more common in monozygotic than in dizygotic twins.
Some have suggested the fear of needles is a primitive response which evolved to help people avoid injuries such as stab wounds, which would have been fatal.
About Author: Lisa Coon
Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016. A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, The beach is good for the soul.
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Expose Yourself To Needles
Deliberately exposing yourself to your fearsin this case, needlescan make them less intimidating. Exposure therapy might begin with viewing pictures or videos of needles and progress to watching someone else get a shot.
“The person is gradually shown these things that evoke anxiety,” Chernoff says. “Over time, the anxiety will come down and they’ll learn, ‘Oh, this is actually not dangerous. I can survive this.'”
Chernoff says exposure therapy can be provided by behavior therapists who specialize in treating anxiety and phobias. But people with mild fear may be able to guide themselves through the steps.
What Are The Symptoms Of Trypanophobia
The symptoms of trypanophobia can greatly interfere with a persons quality of life. These symptoms can be so intense that they can be debilitating. Symptoms are present when a person sees needles or is told they will have to undergo a procedure that involves needles. Symptoms include:
- feeling emotionally or physically violent
- avoiding or running away from medical care
The goal of treatment for trypanophobia is to address the underlying cause of your phobia. So your treatment may be different from someone elses.
Most people with trypanophobia are recommended some kind of psychotherapy as their treatment. This could include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy . This involves exploring your fear of needles in therapy sessions and learning techniques to cope with it. Your therapist will help you learn different ways to think about your fears and how they affect you. In the end, you should walk away feeling a confidence or mastery over your thoughts and feelings.
Exposure therapy. This is similar to CBT in that its focused on changing your mental and physical response to your fear of needles. Your therapist will expose you to needles and the related thoughts they trigger. For example, your therapist might first show you photos of a needle. They might next have you stand next to a needle, hold a needle, and then perhaps imagine getting injected with a needle.
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Behind The Fear Of Needles
Rana Mafee is an integrative neurologist at Case Integrative Health in Chicago. She also practices family medicine in Westchester, Illinois. Mafee says that fear of needles is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Somewhere between 11.5 million and 66 million people in the United States experience fear of needles on one level or another, so youre not the only person who starts to get queasy at the idea of an injection. The first thing to remind yourself is that you are not alone, says Mafee.
Its also important to figure out if what youre experiencing is a fear or a phobia. Being afraid of needles is one thing, but if you have actual trypanophobia , your treatment options will look different.
A phobia is a fear that is so great that it begins to impact your daily living in a significant way, says Mafee. Fear, however, is a natural and normal human reaction to the presumption of danger. It can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but it doesnt tend to notably impact the way you live your life. If you are so afraid of needles that you cannot bear to be around them to the point where you will avoid medical care that you need , you may be dealing with trypanophobia.
Of course, modern medicine has given punctures a purpose. The irony of this instinct is that needles today are involved in the protection of the immune system and the prevention of further injury, Romanoff says.
Tips To Support Your Child When Fear Of Needles Arises
- Dont make promises for no shots any time going to the clinic. You never know what plan will be recommended and what shots youve missed. If you make and break that promise, trust is broken. Dont joke about the doctor or nurse giving a shot as punishment either. NO SINGLE shot is ever given to make a child uncomfortabledont create that myth as it sets your child up to believe the doctor may harm them.
- Fear of needles is real. Validate your child when they state they are terrified. And then talk directly with the clinician about ways to support your child during the shots.
- Consider using an anti-anxiety medication when true needle phobia is present. Ive worked with a pediatric psychiatrist for numerous patients in my clinic to develop a plan for anxiolysis to support them getting recommended care.
- Consider using a numbing cream to numb the skin prior to the vaccination. Youll need a prescription from your clinician to do so but often the cream provides a bit of comfort, a sense of control, and boosts confidence for anxious or fearful children/teens.
- Consider deep breathing and other behavioral modifications including distraction at the time of injections to support your child. Consider seeing a behavioral health clinician as well.
- Consider the cough trick. I offer the cough trick to all of my patients and teens nervous about shots. Studies confirm it works brilliantly!
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