Needle phobia is a defined medical condition that affects between 20 and 23 percent of the adult population to such an extent that it causes them to avoid needed medical care. Many cases of what is called needle phobia go far beyond a simple fear of needles.
Nobody likes to get a shot or a blood draw, but for some, the fear of needles is so intense it actually causes medical difficulties. While other extreme fears can be avoided — flying, heights, even spiders– most of us have to get a needle at some point. Learning how to get over a fear of needles will improve not only your comfort level with medical treatment, but also make it easier to get the care you need without being afraid.
Knowing why you are afraid can help you start getting over fear of needles. Many fears, including extreme fear of needles, begin in childhood; speaking to a parent about any incidents you had as a child may help you identify the origin of your fear. Thinking about needles and injections may be uncomfortable for you, but if you can identify what part of the process you find most scary, overcoming fear of needles will be easier for you.
How to Overcome a Fear of Needles:
Realize that the pain will be over in an instant: While young children can’t quantify pain, older kids, teens and adults can. If you are fearful of needles because of pain, realizing that the pain is real, but will be over very quickly can help.
Ask the nurse or phlebotomist for help: Let the person giving you the injection know you are fearful. She can do her best to minimize your discomfort by providing comfortable seating, using a tiny needle and distracting you with conversation.
Request a butterfly: Butterfly needles are used for drawing blood for a variety of reasons, and fear of needle is one of them. Even if you have big veins that are easy to tap, ask that a butterfly be used to minimize your discomfort. Having some control over the process can help you get over fear of needles.
Adopt a one shot policy for blood draws: If digging around looking for a vein is what makes you dread needles, make it very clear to the person who will be drawing your blood that they will have one shot. Ask for the best person in the office, and you’ll be less likely to become a pincushion.
Don’t let students experiment on you: Doctors, nurses and lab techs have to learn sometime, but you have the right to refuse to become a human pincushion for someone who is just learning to start an IV or draw blood. If you are in a teaching hospital or environment, or if more than one person shows up to draw your blood, one of them is likely a student. Respectfully decline and ask for experienced Phlebotomist. Mistakes in the chair are likely to increase your fear and anxiety, not eliminate them.
Reward yourself: Even baby steps deserve rewards. If you go to a doctor’s appointment you normally would have skipped due to needle fear, make sure you reward yourself for going. Actually get a shot or blood draw? Make it truly worth it by rewarding yourself with something special. Over time, you may begin to associate the needle with a reward, not with pain or fear.
Numb up before your shot: If you know you’ll be getting a shot, an anesthetic cream can be applied a few minutes in advance, to numb your skin. Know you are getting blood drawn? A very warm compress can make it easier for the person doing the work and numb your arm a bit, too.
Choose an alternate location: If you have a fear of blood draws, or get lightheaded or sick when blood is drawn from your arm, ask the lab technician to draw from your hand instead. While the back of your hand is a less common site, there are plenty of veins to choose from and the risk of nausea is greatly reduced.
Desensitize yourself: by reading up on how needles work, viewing pictures of needles or reading about the importance of injections. While fear may make you avoid needles and shots, information overload can actually make needles seem routine and non-threatening.