The fear of needles is also known by a variety of terms including trypanophobia or blenophobia and is believed to affect at least 10 percent of the population in the United States alone. There are several strategies employed by medical and mental health professionals to help trypanophobic individuals overcome their fear of needles. Patients with a mild phobia often respond to detailed explanations of medical procedures to alleviate fear of the unknown, having more control over their environment and training themselves to relax prior to the procedure involving needles. Graded exposure, hypnosis, numbing of the injection site, anti-anxiety medications and cognitive behavioral therapy are additional interventions that can be beneficial.
People who suffer from a fear of needles may find it helpful to work with a medical professional that has experience treating the phobia and can help desensitize the patient by explaining the procedure and its benefits in detail. Some patients may want to lie down while the injection is administered and rest for several minutes afterward. Medical professions can also numb the injection site thus reducing pain and anxiety. Allowing trypanophobic individuals to determine the environment for the procedure and have a friend, spouse or family member present can greatly reduce stress.
Hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation can train a person with a fear of needles to relax and alter his or her perception of procedures involving needles. Cognitive behavior therapy and hypnosis may help a patient identify and discard negative emotions and beliefs about needles in exchange for more positive thinking. Meditation can train an individual to relax prior to visiting his or her medical professional.
Anti-anxiety medications may be beneficial in severe cases of fear of needles. Taken within an hour prior to the procedure, prescription drugs such as diazepam or lorazepam can relax a patient. These medications should be taken only under the supervision of a medical professional.
An additional strategy that can be useful when overcoming a fear of needles is gradual or graded exposure. The patient is first exposed to diagrams and toys, then cotton swabs before finally seeing unopened syringes. Gradual exposure can slowly desensitize a patient to injections and needles.
This phobia can provoke panic attacks, fainting spells, vertigo, nausea and diaphoresis and be severe enough that people may avoid vaccinations, blood tests and other crucial medical procedures. The onset is typically during early childhood and many trypanophobic adults recognize the irrationality of their fear. There is evidence to suggest that this phobia may be inherited since many people with a fear of needles have a relative with the same problem. Like many phobias, overcoming a fear of needles often requires time and incremental steps towards the ultimate goal.