How to Overcome Needle Phobia

By Jeremy Shuman, Psy.D.

With vaccines becoming available more readily, I wanted to share a helpful resource. A New York Times article published yesterday said 16% percent of people skip the flu vaccine each year just because of fear of needles and 20% of people skip their tetanus shots. I respect every person’s individual right to research and choose what they put into their body and when they choose to do it. But if fear of the pain of the shot, or fear of the anxiety leading up to the shot is holding someone back from a vaccination, that would be a shame.

This is a free CBT based self help guide for people who avoid medical procedures due to their anxiety.

It’s common wisdom that a panic attack can’t make you faint. In fact, fainting from a panic attack is a sign to see the doctor. Panic attacks raise your blood pressure, whereas fainting comes from a drop in blood pressure. There is one exception to this, though. For some evolutionary reason, our blood pressure drops when we see blood, injection, or injury. So if your client is used to deep breathing through anxious situations, here is a situation to do the opposite. There is a technique called applied tension that involves tensing the whole body except for the arm getting the shot. 

There are also “shot blockers” you can buy, little studded disks with a spot for the needle to confuse the nerve endings around the site of the shot.

This book explains applied tension as well as cognitive self-help and self-guided graduated exposure therapy. Most people imagine, look at pictures, look at videos, and do exercises in the parking lot of the place they will get their shot. Often folks handle a play needle and play blood, sometimes a syringe with no needle, and sometimes actually handling a syringe with a needle injecting a piece of fruit or something. You definitely do not have to stick yourself with a needle, though some clients just choose to do it after learning it’s an option.

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