Are you familiar with the word trypanophobia? Here are adept tips on how to overcome this worrisome situation. Working as an Outpatient Department Charge Nurse means administering injections is a routine task. In this role, I have encountered a lot of patients who have an irrational fear of needles and have sought means to overcome this fear.
My understanding of the plight of these patients stems from witnessing a good number of them in their hysterical moments. Characteristically, a patient could go from talking about his or her fear of medical procedures like taking a flu shot to passing out during or after the process. A typical instance remains my encounter during my service year in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Being a member of the NYSC Orientation Camp medical team, I was required to collect blood samples from corps members. One of them, Sarah, verbalised her fear beforehand and I regarded it as a prime moment to educate her on how to deal with this intense fear.
Guess what? It was a failed attempt.
I needed just 3mls of blood from her for an urgent laboratory test. Apparently, as there wasn’t enough time to complete counselling, I implored her not to look at or pay attention to the procedure. Sadly enough, curiosity got the better part of her so much so that before I withdrew the needle, after aspirating, her hands felt cold – she had passed out and almost hit her head on the examination bench!!!
I was perplexed!
There was an immediate emergency response. I stopped the procedure and began rescusitation. Within moments, she regained consciousness.
Now, that was a terrifying experience for me as a young nurse but thankfully, I have since understood the art of allaying patient’s fear and anxiety especially with regards to phobia for needles/injections.
Too many times, overcoming this fear isn’t a big deal to some persons but to others, even when life depends on it, it remains a herculean task.
Today’s post promises useful tips to help with this phobia whether as an individual, a nurse seeking to help patients, a concerned parent, a supportive friend who knows someone that needs daily insulin shots to survive and many more.
The fear of needle is simply known in medical writings as needle phobia. However, extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles is generally known as Trypanophobia. This is not very different from aichmophobia although aichmophobia is generally used to describe a morbid fear of sharply pointed objects.
Nonetheless, sufferers merely make a normal procedure seem so profound. According to Cheryl Carmin, PhD, turns out between 10 -21 per cent of the general population are afraid of needles. However, out of this number, only about 3.5 per cent would be considered a case of trypanophobia. That still, might be a negligible number.
But hey! It could be you and there is little or no shame in that.
This peculiar fright is noticed sometime between 15 and 24 months of age – the phase of self-awareness. Parents with kids who exhibit such trait should be proactive as not every child grows out of it as expected.
Being proactive could involve hosting a play on ‘how to get over fear of needles’ before kids reach the age of 4 to 6 months. This is critical because after they’ve developed fine motor skills, taking a simple shot could turn into a tug of war.
On the flip side for most people, by the time they reach adulthood, they can tolerate needles much more easily. Needless to say, for some however, their fears remain irrespective of age or situation till death do them part.
As a skilled health personnel, being prepared for such encounter cannot be overemphasized as there’s a likelihood of your shot being ruined and trust me, you don’t want this!
What triggers fear of needles?
As with any other phobia, the cause of this disorder ranges from genetics to environmental influences. This might get you wondering if fear can be transferable.
If your parents or close relatives have any of such anxiety disorder, you or your kids stand a chance of inheriting it.
Knowing such fear might be imprinted in your gene even before birth, it’s safe to say it’s no fault of yours. As per the environmental causes, taking trypanophobia for example, you can control or change things. From observation, I’m positive that only a fraction of the events surrounding the procedure causes the phobia. These events would be mere sight of the needle, memories of painful shots at a tender age or bad technique used by a nurse or health practitioner.
Whatever be the case, the reaction from sufferers may vary. This may include: fainting or severe dizziness arising from vasovagal reflex reaction when pricked by a needle; for younger children bad memories and anxiety also play a major role. Not forgetting that our brains always have a negative bias to situations, memories of painful injections could stick to a child’s mind and would cause outright refusal and poor cooperation.
Encountering such a patient is not always a pleasant experience and as such it might be necessary to use unconventional means just to get the job done.
How to get over fear of needles?
Firstly, it is pertinent to note that fear of needles affects the life of people around you. For example, during outbreaks you may be required to take a flu shot in order to protect yourself from contracting an infection and spreading it. At varying instances, you’ll need injections for;
- Vaccination – such as tetanus, Hepatitis B, HPV.
- For curative treatment – such as antimalarial shots.
- During hospitalization – example cannulation for IVF. The fact remains that taking a shot is almost inevitable. However, if you’re stuck in the fear of needles, here are a couple of things you need to note.
• Understand your fear
– understanding your trigger is paramount; a mere sight of the needle could prompt your anxiety. To others, it could be fear of blood, as a result of needle prick, the phlebotomist, foreign objects piercing your body or pain from the pricked site. Sometimes, your anxiety may be due to fear of the unknown in the sense that you may not have full understanding of the procedure. Whatever the case, identifying the root of your fear is the first step to managing your anxiety. Once the source of your fear is established, tackle your distress head on.
• Familiarize yourself
Once you’ve understood the source of your fear, exposing yourself in a non-frightening way would help. For example, if you’re afraid of seeing needles, you can start by looking at pictures of needles on books or the internet. Gradually, you can graduate to touching and holding it. This would reduce your fear of needles and get rid of all the uneasiness about needles. If your fear is about the procedure itself, get relevant information from your care provider.
• Suppress the pain
you’re probably familiar with the term ‘no pain, no gain’. Well, so it is with taking injections. Truth be told, most people are afraid of the pain associated with injections. While some injections are extremely painful, for example HPV vaccine, others are almost painless, such as insulin shots. People with life-threatening fear for injections merely heighten their pain sensation. Yes, it’s possible to suppress the fear and pain in your mind, by eliciting a relaxing response, deep breathing and focusing your thoughts on the gains of taking the shot. A great drug-free product for injection pain is Buzzy.
• Distract yourself
- – agreed, just looking away Mostly, keeping yourself from a spiral loop of nostalgic and resentful thoughts about your fear or the procedure would do. You can focus your mind on your favourite movie scene or game. Anything to proffer temporary distraction from the current situation would help. Most times, taking a shot barely takes seconds which may seem like eternity if you dwell on it.
• Keep your blood pressure up
– if you’ve had a history of fainting during an injection, it is important to keep your blood tension at optimal level. Fainting during shot often occurs due to a sharp drop in blood pressure. However, if you have problems with balancing your blood pressure or problems with your heart and blood vessels, this might not be right decision for you. Try other techniques instead. For example, breathing techniques. To improve your blood pressure you can try increasing your fluid intake, increasing sodium consumption, wearing compression stockings, limiting or stopping alcohol consumption.
• Verbalize your concern
– just like the popular saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, before booking an appointment for an injection, talking about your fear with your care provider is important. He or she needs to know beforehand what to expect and how to help you through your fears. This is important to avoid ruining the shot and preventing injection related complications such as an injection abscess.
• Eat sweets
– ever think it’s alright to eat candy? Well, most people like a sweet treat. Although this may not be totally strange, but sugary nutriments are not only good sources of energy, but also particularly pleasurable. According to Psychology Today, sugar consumption triggers the release of endogenous opioids in the brain. These are feel good hormones that can lead to a rush of pleasure, and thereby counteract the effects of pain while taking the shot.
Conclusively, knowing what works for you is ideal. As much as not everyone totally overcomes this phobia and it isn’t entire possible to avoid taking shots, it becomes necessary to develop means of living with it without any detriment to one’s well-being.
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