Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Fear of needles relatively common

March 5, 2014

Q.I went to give blood and discovered I’m terrified of needles! As much as I wanted to donate, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s amazing that I’ve never had to have a shot up until this time (or maybe I can’t remember having one when I was a kid). Now I’m thinking, what if I need an IV or something. How can I get over this fear? It’s freaking me out.


Mary Jo’s response: Your fear has a name: trypanophobia (fear of injections), and it’s not uncommon. I think you show maturity and courage by facing this fear and seeking support.

Fear can be powerful. There are two ways to deal with your fear of needles – the first involves support from others, and the second focuses on your own strengths.

Let’s talk about seeking outside support:

Communicate your fear: Tell your health-care provider in advance you’ve discovered this phobia. At your next wellness checkup, share your concern. Most providers have faced this fear in the past. Cooling sprays or anesthetic creams can be used to numb the skin before an injection. Examples of these are NeedleBuster and EMLA Cream.

Be open to suggestion: If your health-care provider suggests ways to cope with the fear, listen and be open-minded.

Position yourself comfortably: Lying down may help if you feel lightheaded or dizzy just thinking about needles. Ask your provider to distract you while the injection is given.

Bring a friend or family member to the office visit: Ask your partner to squeeze your other hand to distract you. The physical stimuli will help distract you from the needle.

Ask about anti-anxiety medication: In extreme cases, a health-care provider may prescribe medication.This is only a temporary solution. Read on to look at ways you can ease your anxiety.

Help yourself by:

Easing tension: Holding your muscles tight before an injection can actually make it hurt more.

Taking deep, controlled breaths: Center yourself by focusing on your breathing. When the actual injection is happening, blow out forcefully through your mouth (like blowing out birthday candles).

Distracting yourself visually: Don’t look at the needle. Don’t watch as it enters your skin.

Distracting yourself mentally: Listen to music, use your phone (with your other hand) or use visualization (daydream) to picture your favorite movie or a positive event from your life.

Reminding yourself that you’re a strong person: Minimize the needle size and realize the actual pain is minimal. You can do this!

Putting the injection in perspective: Hundreds of thousands of people come in contact with needles daily. Rationally you know you’re not in real danger.

• Thinking through the actual time: One day holds 86,400 seconds. How long will this injection last? Maybe 30 seconds? Even if you don’t like needles, it’s not a long period of time to endure.

• Avoiding embarrassment: Everyone has fears. Accept yours without guilt and work to grow stronger.

• Rewarding yourself: Plan dinner out, a movie, a massage or something you really enjoy as a reward for getting through the procedure.

I never minimize fear. Honest acceptance of the challenges in our lives can make facing fear easier. You are a person of worth. Be proud of your growth as you improve. I have faith in you. Good luck.



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