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Fear of the Needle: A Vaccine Obstacle?

Fear of the Needle: A Vaccine Obstacle?

These days everyone is talking about the Covid-19 vaccine. How well does it work? Who can get one? How hard is it to schedule an appointment for it? Some people are skeptical - they question the safety and necessity of the vaccine.

But some people have a much different fear, and it’s not just about the Covid vaccine. It could be about any vaccine, or illness, or medical procedure. This would be “trypanophobia,” or more simply put, fear of needles when you go to the doctor’s office. And it can make people reluctant to get the Covid vaccine.

This problem has not gone unnoticed. Poynter, a highly regarded journalistic institution, recently published an article warning journalists to abstain from including images and footage of injections in their vaccine coverage. People with a fear of needles, they argue, might shy away from vaccination after seeing someone get a shot.

Not just kids

A fourth of all US adults report fearing needles, and a significant amount of those people avoid procedures involving them. This high number presents cause for concern. Some people even pass out when getting a shot or having blood drawn. Most children have a fear of needles, and in these cases, the fear stayed with them into adulthood.

There are a lot of ways trypanophobia can develop. It can simply come from the memory of a painful injection in the past. Or it can be more closely linked to hypochondria, the excessive fear of being sick or dying. It can even be simply the result of a genetic predisposition for phobias in general. In fact, researchers believe most humans have a natural repulsion towards things piercing our skin as a basic survival instinct. When this turns into irrational fear that interferes with our life and health it becomes trypanophobia.

It’s a health issue

Whatever caused it, it is vital to overcome trypanophobia in order to live a healthy life. Many diagnostic, preventative, and treatment procedures involve needles. A troubling problem occurs when fear of the needle outweighs the more serious fear of a disease.

Especially nowadays, those who are afraid of needles can use all the help they can to put an end to it. But since each person is different, and the cause for trypanophobia varies from case to case, treatment for this disorder is tailored to the individual.

How can I overcome this?

Like with many disorders each patient navigates a balance between therapy-based treatment and medication management.

On the therapy side, treatments often used for anxiety disorders seem to have a great effect. These include Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. With CBT, patients discuss their fears with a therapist and examine new ways to approach the problem in their minds. In this way, they can take a different angle when they see medical procedures using needles. Challenging thought patterns lead to a new relationship to the problematic issue.

Exposure therapy involves being exposed to - you guessed it - needles, such as standing near one or bringing up thoughts of getting injected. Over time, these exposures weaken your anxiety reaction and the fear eventually subsides.

However, for some people, a chemical imbalance in the brain might be helping to push them towards an anxiety response towards needles. In this case, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines may help to ease the mind if one dwells constantly on fear of needles. Anti-anxiety medication may also be used once during the actual procedure to relax the body and make the experience less frightening.

If your fear of needles is taking a toll on your life, please reach out. Bregman Medical Group offers online psychiatric and therapeutic treatments for a wide range of disorders. Simply schedule an appointment at or call 305-740-3340.


By BregmanMD | February 01, 2021 | Mental Health

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