Every evening as we watch the news, we are bombarded with pictures of people having their coronavirus vaccines all across the world. I don’t think I have ever seen so many needles in such a short space of time! I don’t like needles. In fact it would not be inaccurate to say I am phobic about the horrible pointy things. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the virus as much as anyone, and am delighted and relieved now that we have 3 vaccines on offer … I just wish the vaccine came in a tablet!
I had to laugh the other day when I saw a jokey post someone had put up on Instagram: It read “Why don’t they put the vaccine into beer and wine and open up all the pubs? The whole of the UK will be vaccinated by the weekend!” If only!
I hate needles, I will do almost anything to avoid them, jabs are never fun, and allowing someone to take my blood is, off the scale, terrifying. Talking about ‘veins’ (the word alone makes me shudder), is enough to reduce me to tears. And unfortunately this is a VERY bad time to be needle phobic.
Interestingly, I thought my needle phobia was called ‘needle phobia’. But apparently it can also be known as aichmophobia or belonephobia, although these may refer to a fear of pointy objects in general.
If you are needle phobic here are a few pointers (sorry) to try:
Have something light to eat before you go and get your injection and make sure you take a bottle of water with you. Taking sips of water will make you feel better and having something in your stomach will make you less likely to faint.
Tell the person who is giving you your injection about your fear. They may be able to answer any specific questions you have, and help you cope by chatting to distract you.
Think about whether there has been anything which has helped you to cope with needles in the past. Can you use something like this to help you again?
Try a controlled desensitisation. I have deliberately put pictures of needles on a post about needle phobia. Try and look at the pictures of needles. Once you can manage that without too much anxiety, take it a step further and talk to someone about needles. The next step is to hold one, if that is possible, and then watch someone have a vaccination. If you take all these steps slowly, allowing your brain to process your feelings about each step before moving onto the next one, you will gradually become desensitised to the idea of needles, and your brain will consider them to be less frightening.
“Flooding” is a brilliant technique which works really well, but you need to be brave. It is basically desensitisation ….but speeded up! I was terrified of mouth injections but when I had some serious teeth problems and had to have injections a few times a week for a month, my fright about injections in my mouth disappeared. My gums are now the only bit of my body where I don’t mind getting an injection!
If you think it would be beneficial, consider getting counselling to deal with your phobia: A Behavioural Therapist can teach you tricks and coping methods to help you get over your fear, and can help you “unlearn” unhelpful beliefs. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is short term therapy that has been proven to help reduce phobic feelings. Lots of CBT therapists are currently offering counselling courses online.
If counselling is not for you, work on trying to flip or shift your thinking. For example, if you constantly tell yourself that you are terrified of needles, this will never change. If you tell yourself that you are not keen on the idea, but you recognise how important they are for your ongoing health, you may start to shift the way your mind processes these thoughts.
If you have a jab booked, take along some headphones and your music on your phone or other device. Shutting out the noise of the vaccination centre will help while you wait, and the nurse won’t mind at all if you listen to something either distracting or calming while she vaccinates you!
If you feel panicky, (for example, your heart races, your chest feels tight and you feel sweaty and sick), try deep breathing. Try closing your eyes, and breathing in through your nose. Take a deep slow breath, and hold it for four counts. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat four more times. Use this technique several times a day, so you get used to doing it. Then, when you are faced with a needle, you can use it to calm yourself down.
Try visualisation. Think of somewhere that makes you happy and relaxed, for example a beach, a forest, or your favourite holiday destination. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in that place. Use all of your senses. What do you see? What do you smell? What can you feel? What can you hear? Build the world around you in lots of detail. If you are imagining a beach, see the waves in your minds eye, breathe in the sea air, and feel the sand beneath your feet and the sun on your face. The better you are able to picture the place, the better you’ll distract yourself.
Some people are terrified of needles because they are terrified of fainting. So the fear is more about fainting than it is the needle itself. If this is applicable to you, try a technique called Applied Tension. This can help increase your blood pressure back to normal levels, decreasing your chances of fainting.
- Try and relax and get into a comfortable position where you are sitting. Start by tensing all the muscles in your arms, legs, and upper body. Hold that pose for about 15 seconds. You should start to feel your face get warm. When you do, release your muscles.
- Rest for about 30 seconds or so, then try again.
Why are we so sacred of needles? particularly when we know that they do not even hurt! Of course the reason is that the fear is in our heads, and as a counsellor, I am well aware that a phobia can arise following a trauma, but are also as easily triggered by an association, which is much more difficult to define. I’m very lucky that I’m not particularly scared of spiders or snakes, (though in the latter case, I’m not their biggest fan in the world) and I don’t run for the hills if I see a clown, or panic at the prospect of heights or flying, but all these things are hugely terrifying to some. And it’s really common and completely “normal.”
Phobias, big are small, can take over a life. So, if you are terrified of needles, please talk to someone about your fear… I guarantee that by verbalising it, you are taking the first step towards managing it.
Don’t be ashamed of being scared of injections –Overcome your fear one step at a time. If you would like to leave me a message about your needle phobias and how you are coping with it, please do…. ❤️