When people have an intense fear of needles, it is called trypanophobia. They may avoid getting vaccinated and giving blood samples or give injections and intravenous (IV) fluids a miss. If the person delays medical care, they can face serious medical consequences.
What is trypanophobia?
Trypanophobia is an extreme fear of medical procedures that require the use of injections or hypodermic needles. Most children fear needles since they are unfamiliar with the sensation of being pierced with something sharp on their skin. People can tolerate needles much better when they reach adulthood. However, some patients have an intense fear of needles that can disrupt their lives.
What are the symptoms of trypanophobia?
People with trypanophobia suffer from severe anxiety when they see or think of a procedure involving a needle. These symptoms can be severe to an extent where they can disrupt the patient’s life. It can be debilitating too. The symptoms of trypanophobia include the following:
- Panic attacks
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Avoiding medical care
When should you call the doctor?
You should call the doctor if trypanophobia hampers the quality of life or if it stops you from getting the required medical treatments or undergoing routine medical check-ups.
What are the causes of trypanophobia?
According to experts, there is no single cause of trypanophobia. People can be scared of specific features of needles or injections. People can suffer from:
- Hyperalgesia (increased sensitivity to pain.)
- Merinthophobia (a fear of being restrained or tied up and can be triggered when they receive an injection.)
- Negative or stressful memories of the past.
- Fainting or severe dizziness that is caused due to a vasovagal reflex reaction when a needle inserted into their skin
How is trypanophobia diagnosed?
There is no specific test to diagnose trypanophobia. However, a person’s extreme fear of needles can interfere with the doctor’s ability to treat the patient. Therefore, it is essential to note that the doctor recommends treating the phobia first.
As a first step, the doctors get detailed information about the condition from the patient and recommend the patient undergo several medical exams to rule out any physical illnesses. If the patient is not suffering from physical ailments, the doctor may recommend them to a qualified and trained mental healthcare specialist. The psychiatrist or psychologist may ask for a detailed mental and physical history to help them accurately diagnose the condition and accordingly plan the treatment.
What are the complications of trypanophobia?
Trypanophobia can lead to traumatic episodes that may or may not involve panic attacks. However, patients with trypanophobia may also delay medical treatment leading to severe consequences during a medical emergency, especially for patients suffering from a chronic condition.
How is trypanophobia treated?
The main objective of the treatment for trypanophobia is to address the underlying cause of the phobia. Therefore, the treatment for trypanophobia can vary for each individual. Doctors recommend trying a combination of different treatment methods for trypanophobia as there is no single method to treat any phobia. The methods of treatment include the following:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
– is also called talk therapy. During the therapy sessions, patients are exposed to the fear of needles and trained with various techniques to cope with the phobia. The therapist can help patients learn different ways to think about needles and how they affect them. As a result, patients feel confident or have more control over their feelings and symptoms.
– Exposure therapy is similar to cognitive behavioural therapy. It concentrates on people’s mental and physical responses to fear of needles. The therapist will slowly expose people to needles for many weeks or months. At first, patients view the images of needles. Later, the doctors may ask the patients to hold a needless syringe. Once the patient is comfortable holding a syringe that doesn’t include a needle, they will eventually accept getting jabbed.
– Sometimes, people with trypanophobia can be extremely stressed, making it difficult to respond to psychotherapy. In such severe cases, the doctor can prescribe anti anxiety and sedative medications to relax the body and brain and ease the symptoms. Medications may also be used when doctors perform a blood test or during vaccination if it helps in minimising the patient’s stress.
How can people overcome their fear of trypanophobia?
For most patients, trypanophobia does not go away completely. Therefore they can use various coping strategies to ease their symptoms, such as:
- Avoid watching the needle stick or looking at the needle itself when inserted.
- Bring a loved one to offer support like a spouse, friend, or family member for medical appointments.
- The patient may distract the mind with thoughts, images, or videos when the needle enters the body.
- Request the doctor or healthcare provider to use a numbing agent before the needle insertion so that the sensation is less felt.
- Lie down before the needle insertion to avoid fainting and dizziness.
- Learn deep-breathing techniques to ease anxious thoughts.
- Develop a way to relax the muscles at the site where the healthcare providers inject. Keeping the muscles tense may worsen the pain.
- Inform the healthcare professionals about the phobia of injections and blood samples.
The most crucial aspect of addressing trypanophobia is to address the underlying causes. Once people discover the causes of their fear of needles, they must follow the treatment plan. People may not overcome their fear of needles. However, they can manage their symptoms so that it doesn’t disrupt their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What other conditions put people at higher risk for trypanophobia?
2. What are the long-term effects of trypanophobia?
When trypanophobia is left untreated, it can have devastating consequences because this fear may cause people to delay undergoing the required medical treatment. It can put them at greater risk for health complications and, in emergencies, can even result in death.
3. Is trypanophobia common?
Children tend to have trypanophobia, with some research indicating that up to 2 in 3 children fear needles. The majority of people overcome trypanophobia when they reach adulthood. However, many of them may still have a fear of needles. According to certain reports, about 16% of adults avoid getting jabbed due to their fear of needles. Some studies indicate that up to 1 in 10 adults struggle with trypanophobia.