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How to Overcome a Fear of Needles
September 24, 2017

syringe in hand

Do you have a phobia? More specifically – does it prevent you from receiving the level of healthcare that you deserve?

For those with a fear of needles (known as trypanophobia), the struggle is ongoing. Something that seems relatively perfunctory to most of use – like a vaccination or giving blood – is a fight or flight situation for the needle phobic. This can interfere with their disease prevention and also with their dental care.

But it’s time to turn that fear into something more positive. If you’ve been holding back from dental treatment due to a needle phobia, we can help. Below, we’ve detailed the potential background of this phobia to help you understand your response to needles. And, more importantly, we’ve included information about how other patients have been able to overcome their fear and feel comfortable receiving necessary shots.

If you’re afraid and have an upcoming procedure, don’t hesitate to contact us. Talking will help, and we can offer sedation to put your nerves to rest.

Why Do I Have a Needle Phobia?

Phobias are extreme fears that are so significant that they are irrational. Those with phobias do whatever possible to avoid the thing they fear, and experience anxiety or even panic attacks when exposed to the feared situation or thing. Phobias are most often lifelong, and appear during childhood or adolescence.

There are defined categories of common phobias – animal, natural environment, situational, blood, social and other. Fear of needles falls into the blood category.

While it’s common to feel anxious about having an injection, a phobia goes beyond simple nervousness. In fact, many needle phobic people actually have a fainting response – and find themselves growing dizzy when confronted with a needle. This response is unique to blood/needle phobias, and is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. What’s so strange about this is that blood pressure typically rises when an individual is afraid. One theory behind this phenomenon is that a needle, blood or injury phobic person’s brain is hypersensitive to blood loss. Therefore, the brain might be trying to reduce blood flow to retain blood if there is an injury.

The fainting response is especially problematic because the person fears fainting as much as they fear the needle – complicating the phobia.

What other reasons might the fear be rooted in? Some people have traumatic memories from an injection they received as a child. This may not be related to the injection itself, but to the surrounding situation – being sick, or fainting as a response. Others are concerned about the pain involved in being pierced with a needle.

How have people overcome their needle phobia?

For those with a serious phobia, therapy is typically the best path to feeling better. There are mental health professionals that specialize in needle phobias, and have well-researched and effective methods for reducing the fear. One is exposure therapy, progressing from looking at a picture of a needle to looking at and touching real needles, to watching videos of injections, to ultimately receiving an injection.

Therapy for a needle phobia also introduces patients to coping methods that help prevent fainting. One is called applied tension. The patient tenses up the body’s larger muscles when they feel faint, which helps raise blood pressure and lowers the risk of fainting entirely.

But what about a fear of needles that you don’t feel merits full-on therapy? There are other ways to feel comfortable in the office when receiving anesthesia – and we do everything possible to help.

  • Dental sedation
  • Wiggling the cheek during injection
  • Listening to music or watching TV
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