It’s not uncommon for children to have a fear of needles, and many kids are likely to put up a fuss when it comes to having their shots done. But Trypanophobia, otherwise known as Needle Phobia, is far more extreme, afflicting children and adults alike.
An estimated 10% of adults in the Western world are believed to suffer from Trypanophobia, though the true number is likely to be higher. Accurate figures are difficult to obtain, as severe cases will often avoid any form of medical assistance.
There are 4 different types of needle phobia;
- Vasovagal affects up to 50% of sufferers. It’s believed to be hereditary, with individuals suffering extreme anxiety at images and thoughts of needles. Fainting during a procedure is frequent, and can be extremely dangerous.
- Associative affects around 30% of needle phobics. A traumatic experience is generally believed to be the cause of the phobia, and patients predominantly suffer psychological symptoms.
- Resistive needle phobes are not necessarily scared of the needle itself, but the feeling of restraint and powerlessness during the procedure. It affects around 20% of sufferers.
- Hyperalgesic sufferers are often hypersensitive to pain, and feel unbearable agony during injections. Affecting around 10% of needle phobes, patients suffer similar psychological symptoms as other types, plus intense physical pain.
Trypanophobia is one of the very few phobias that can be deadly, with the drop in blood pressure and fainting in Vasovagal sufferers potentially resulting in death. Fortunately, there are several treatments that can rid one of their fear, and the dangerous symptoms associated with it.
CAUSES OF TRYPANOPHOBIA
It is widely believed that Vasovagal Trypanophobia is a largely inherited phobia, with up to 80% of patients reporting a direct family member also suffering. It’s the vasovagal syncope reaction, or fainting due to reduced blood pressure, that is believed to be hereditary.
Psychologists theorize that this reaction is a result of evolution. During the Paleolithic age, humans developed nonverbal signs to show they are not a threat at times of aggression. There is believed to be a link between fainting at the sight of blood, or injury, that has been passed down over thousands of generations.
This has become tied in with needles due to blood samples being taken as well as the pain associated with injections. Another evolutionary theory suggests that the fear of being stabbed or having your skin pierced was an early survival instinct.
Associative and Resistive Trypanophobia are often the result of a traumatic experience at a young age, either directly, or witnessed. For example, witnessing an elderly relative receiving an injection, and dying shortly after, can form a strong link between needles and death. In resistive trypanophobes, being held down in an uncomfortable manner can lead to an intense fear of powerlessness, associated with needles.
SYMPTOMS OF TRYPANOPHOBIA
Many people who suffer from Trypanophobia will experience extreme anxiety at the prospect of having an injection. In more severe cases, just thinking about, or seeing a picture of a needle, can result in panic attacks. Insomnia during the lead up to an injection is not uncommon. Sufferers will go to great lengths to avoid injections, and many forego any form of medical treatment.
Vasovagal Trypanophobia sufferers will experience these psychological symptoms, but will nearly always pass out during an injection. Indeed, most sufferers report it is the fear of fainting, more than the needle, that brings on panic attacks.
Resistive Trypanophobes may become uncharacteristically violent during injections, often attempting to escape by any means necessary. High blood pressure and an increased heart rate are also experienced.
Exposure Therapy is widely recognized as effective treatments for most types of Trypanophobia. By gradually exposing you to your fear and practicing relaxation techniques, you become desensitized to it.
Applied Tension has been used to counter the feelings of low blood pressure experienced by Vasovagal patients. This behavioural technique has been proven to reduce symptoms such as dizziness and fainting, allowing patients to remain conscious during injections.
Resistive patients often benefit from Hypnotherapy, which works to change your mindset and put you in control of the situation. Self-injection techniques can also be taught.
Hyperalgesic sufferers will typically require some form of anesthesia during procedures, to reduce the pain that they experience.
In today’s digital world, there are even apps or audio therapy sessions such as subliminals you can download to help rid you of your phobia.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF NEEDLES
The benefits of overcoming your fear of needles are huge, and potentially lifesaving. By treating your Trypanophobia, you will never need to avoid important medical appointments again.
In the case of Vasovagal Trypanophobia, overcoming your fear can allow you to prevent the dangerous drop in blood pressure, which has been linked to death in past cases. Overcoming any fear is a huge confidence boost, and you may find yourself taking more risks and enjoying life more.