Trypanophobia, The Extreme Fear of Needles

Trypanophobia, The Extreme Fear of Needles

You chat to yourself up in the car and enter the doctor's office. You wiggle on the exam bench, the crunching sound of medical crepe paper. A 16 mm needle linked to a syringe containing a vaccine is uncapped when the nurse arrives. Blood drains from your face and you feel faint. Trypanophobia may be the cause of your reaction when you see a needle if this describes how you feel. You're not alone either. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 25 percent of adults avoid getting necessary vaccinations because of a phobia of needles.

Trypanophobia: What Is It?

Trypanophobia derives from the Greek words "trypano" and "phobia," which both mean "fear." That doesn't seem nice, and those who have it can attest that it isn't. According to Dr. Ashley Love, DrPH, DHSc, "Trypanophobia is a fancy way of stating 'needle phobia,' which is anxiety that is out of proportion to the threat in the surroundings and event. Considering Needle Phobia Among Adult Patients During Mass COVID-19 Vaccinations is a paper co-authored by Love, a public health expert and associate professor at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, and it was published in the Journal of Primary Care & Community Health.

Trypanophobia causes significant emotional and physical reactions in those who think about or are exposed to needles. Even when they are aware of how crucial a vaccination or routine blood test is, they struggle mightily to deal with their fear. The following are typical trypanophobia symptoms:

  • anxiousness or panic attacks
  • nausea
  • sweats
  • increased heart rate or palpitations
  • fainting
  • prior to receiving an injection, insomnia

When Trypanophobia Is Affecting Your Quality of Life

Due to their propensity to avoid hospitals and other healthcare settings, it is difficult to determine the precise number of individuals who may be trypanophobic. But according to Love, that figure might range from 11.5 to 66 million Americans. That's a significant quantity, especially when the development of herd immunity through vaccinations is essential to preventing a pandemic of global health. This is particularly relevant to needle anxiety in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. "Not obtaining the COVID-19 vaccination puts persons at significant risk of hospitalization and mortality compared to those who have had the COVID-19 vaccinations," Love adds.

But because it undermines herd immunity, these fearful vaccine avoiders also put others at risk of getting sick, such as those who can't (yet) receive the COVID-19 vaccine, such as children under the age of 11. While it is difficult to estimate the number of people who refuse to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to trypanophobia, a 2019 study found that one in six adults refuse to receive the flu vaccination due to their fear of needles.

However, trypanophobia prevents individuals from receiving other vaccinations, such as those for influenza and COVID-19. Love claims that because people with needle phobia avoid going to the doctor, any early disease detection will be lost. That means those who have trypanophobia may struggle to get regular blood tests for diabetes or may miss the early signs of diseases like cancer. People with needle phobia tend to disregard life-threatening conditions, which lowers their quality of life because they avoid getting shots at all costs, according to Love.

What Causes Trypanophobia?

Why is this fear so widespread? Researchers believe family life and heredity play a significant effect, however they are unable to say for sure. According to Love's study, four out of five persons with needle phobia have a first-degree relative with the same dread. Charity Rose, MSW, LSW, a child and family therapist in Indianapolis, suggests that it can be inherited or the result of trauma experienced throughout childhood. Trypanophobia is the most prevalent phobia Rose treats in Indianapolis, and it is the tenth most prevalent phobia overall. The majority of the time, this is the time when babies and young children receive their first vaccinations. "Some people can't pinpoint when their fear originated, but it might be caused by trauma encountered with needles," says the expert.

According to a 2017 study in the journal Vaccine, childhood vaccinations, particularly those administered between the ages of 4 and 6, have a significant impact on vaccine anxiety as children age. Future research should, say the researchers, consider how to make immunizations for young children less upsetting. Examples include:

  • lowering strong lights when firing
  • having children looking aside while obtaining a shot
  • demonstrating to children that getting shots doesn't have to be a scary experience for adults who they can trust
  • employing relaxation methods when young children experience fear

Although there isn't a single, effective method for treating trypanophobia, there are experts who focus on assisting phobia sufferers in getting over their anxieties.

Treating Trypanophobia with exposure.

Trypanophobia cannot be cured, although therapies like exposure therapy and distraction methods can help sufferers manage their symptoms. According to Rose, the most effective treatment for phobias like needle fear is exposure therapy, which involves deliberately exposing patients to their fear in a secure setting. Exposure therapy is a skill Rose has received training in, and she employs it to assist patients. According to her, "exposure therapy targets the overall phobia, not just one incidence." Other methods of diversion are available, but doing so only temporarily covers the fear and does nothing to treat it.

There are alternative methods to deal with the consequences of trypanophobia when getting a shot if you are unable to locate a therapist who specializes in exposure treatment.

  • Invite a friend or member of your family to join you.
  • In order for the nurse or doctor to be gentle with you, let them know that you are afraid of needles.
  • Practice relaxation before you get the prick.
  • Stop watching!
  • When you feel dizzy, sit or lie down to prevent falling.
  • Ask for a numbing spray on the injection location.
  • Use methods of diversion, such as cold or vibrating devices.

Someone suffering from trypanophobia cannot and should not be expected to "buck up." However, it is difficult for persons with needle anxiety to confront injections like the COVID-19 immunization, knowing it could cause them stress and physical agony. Increased research on trypanophobia and treatments such as exposure therapy can shed light on this debilitating phobia and help people get the medical care they require.