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How I battled my needle-phobia - Printable Version

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How I battled my needle-phobia - Finnster - 04-28-2011 07:00 PM

Hi All,

Just thought I would share a positive story and hope you will be able to take something from it.

I am a long suffering needlephobe - in fact I have suffered with a phobia of all things medical: needles, injuries, smear tests, dentists, you name it - even the blood pressure monitor would make me shake and cry. I could not (and still don't like to) hear heartbeats, see veins etc etc.

It is interesting reading through these threads and seeing just how many people mention an experience of being held down or restrained during a medical procedure when young. I cut my face open as a youngster and had to have four nurses hold a hysterical me down whilst the doctors injected the cut with anaesthetic in order to stitch it up. I am convinced this is where the phobia started... unsurprisingly, really.

Well I avoided everything for years - I would have telephone appointments with the doctors rather than go in, ignored smear test letters, didn't visit the dentists in over ten years. Just going to the doctors used to set off a panic attack as my avoidance eventually turned into a deep paranoia that I had become ill and I developed health anxiety/hypochondria. I also developed a real mistrust of health professionals due to years of having doctors and nurses tell me to 'get a grip', 'stop being stupid' or 'you should really do this for your own good'.

It finally became too much and I decided to go to the doctor and ask for help. I was referred to a CBT practitioner who started me on a desensitisation programme. I must admit, at first I was really pretty stubborn and convinced that the CBT was obvious, boring and doing nothing for me. I actually finished my ten sessions and didn't feel like I had gained much from it. However the practitioner did notify me of a fantastic doctor in my practice who was unbelievably understanding and patient with me - you would NOT believe the difference this made. Suddenly I wasn't so scared to go into the surgery. Of course, I still hated it, and I still occasionally made a fool of myself by crying in the waiting room (usually due to a poster on the wall - 'Do YOU have cancer?' or that kind of thing), but the difference was - I COULD go.

Fast forward a year or so and I started a fantastic job that involves travel to such places such as subsaharan Africa, which of course, involves a lot of vaccinations (ten, in fact). Uh oh. I wasn't going to let this phobia that I was sick to the back teeth of ruin my life AGAIN, so I set about devising a plan. I went to my doctor and asked her advice. She referred me to a brilliant nurse who was really understanding of people like me. She also had a word before my appointment so that she knew I was scared, therefore I had the confidence to go without being terrified she would whip out a needle or start being too graphic (I had been known to faint just talking about needles). She also prescribed me some diazepam to take.

I went to the consultation appointment with the nurse and it was fine... we discussed what I needed and she advised me to buy some EMLA cream to numb the area. I decided to put myself through a desensitisation programme as per the CBT practitioner.. I started looking at cartoon pictures of injections. Then moved onto to photos of syringes... photos of injections, and finally videos on youtube of injections (not IV though - I still can't bear that!). Believe me, at first you cringe, cry, just want to get away from it... but after a few times, it really does become less scary. I did this right up until the day of the appointment (yesterday).

I took 5mg diazepam a few hours before the appointment, and then 5mg one hour before. Applied the EMLA cream two hours before, and off I went (with a bottle of lucozade in my bag in case I passed out!). I walked down to the surgery, listening to music to take my mind off it, and a book for the waiting room so I didn't have to look at any of THOSE posters. And you know what? I did it. I have three of my ten injections - didn't cry, didn't even tense up that much. I was gobsmacked. The diazepam is an absolute godsend... I think for me my phobia had progressed to not just being scared of the procedure, but also being scared of making a fool of myself, and that awful feeling afterwards of no dignity, of feeling useless, childish and pathetic, not to mention feeling like you have wasted everyone's time. The diazepam gave me the confidence to work around that... and watching the videos of injections to death took away the incredible feeling of panic I got when one was even mentioned. I also asked to lie down, to shut my eyes so I didn't see her preparing the injection or doing it. The EMLA cream really numbed the skin so that I could barely feel the jab.

The feeling I got walking out of the doctors that day was unreal. I really can't believe the progress I have made. Just a few weeks ago I would NEVER have thought I could do this. It seems so strange just writing about it; I'm not sure it has really sunken in yet. Okay, I have to go back next week and do the whole thing again.. but I really think I can do it, and this is just the beginning. Of course, I have a long way to go, but hopefully before long I will be able to do it without the help of tablets and cream!

I really would advise everyone the first step is to find a doctor who is understanding of your VERY REAL condition. It really did make the difference for me.

Good luck guys....


RE: How I battled my needle-phobia - Snooks - 04-28-2011 07:13 PM

Welcome to the forum Finnster. Smile

What a wonderful account of your battle and how you have greatly reduced your fears. That is amazing and thank you for sharing it Smile

Obviously you stay have a way to go and no doubt it will be a lifelong batle, but it shows you what a huge amount of success you have obtained and how bit by bit, step by step you have overcome your phobia.

Congratulations Blob5


RE: How I battled my needle-phobia - Finnster - 04-28-2011 07:19 PM

Thanks Snooks.

Just another small tip: I found that having my (long suffering) boyfriend with me when I went to the doctors or hospital made me a lot worse - I suppose because there was someone there to panic to. What we decided to do yesterday was have him be waiting for me afterwards (I was still terrified in case I made a fool of myself and ran out crying(!) - so it was nice to know he'd be there if so), but not with me whilst waiting for, or in the appointment.

I don't know if this would be useful for others, but it's just one of those small things I learned after about fifteen long years of phobia!


RE: How I battled my needle-phobia - Slaka - 04-29-2011 12:24 PM

I would not say I have a phobia of needles but they scare me a good amount. I have found out for me though its been more difficult having someone else in the room with me. I will look at the person that is "keeping me company" and they look at the needle so I think about what they are seeing. I have done better telling them not to count (I tense up a lot more and then it hurts a lot more) and I will just try to focus on or read a poster or something.

Congratulations on overcoming it!


RE: How I battled my needle-phobia - peterk - 11-03-2017 02:20 AM

Hi All,

This story is a true inspiration to me.

I notice people try various ways to fight needle phobia, and just wanted to share my story and the ways I invented that might help other people to overcome fear of needles:
personal story of overcoming fear of needles

Hope it helps, have a wonderful day

Peter