More than a year after COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown, safe and effective vaccines to protect against the virus are being administered across the world. In addition to reducing your risk for infection, mass vaccination is also the first step towards achieving herd immunity.
For many of us, waiting for things to get back to “normal” is the hardest part, but for others this experience is far more than just a tiny prick. If the thought of needles makes you dizzy, then getting vaccinated can become another source of stress and anxiety. About one in four adults report that they’re afraid of needles. Here’s what you need to know about having a fear of needles and what can be done to manage it.
What’s the difference between a fear and a phobia?
Everyone feels scared at some point, from getting slightly startled by a spider in your bathroom or encountering a grease fire on the stove. A phobia, on the other hand, is a medically diagnosed condition, combining extreme fear, anxiety and avoidance in a way that interferes with your life, says Dr Meghan McMurtry, an associate professor and specialist in medical procedure-related fear.
It’s estimated that up to four per cent of the general population has a “blood injury injection phobia,” a condition in which someone is likely to faint at the sight of blood, or at the anticipation of an injection or injury. Like a game of dodgeball, people with phobias try to avoid whatever triggers their fear or anxiety at any cost, which can lead to a limitation on daily activities and can put a strain on relationships. With a phobia, the feelings of fear and anxiety are commonly out of proportion to the danger posed. As well, people with phobias don’t benefit from the same pain management strategies often recommended for those with a low level of fear, and usually require professional help.
What causes a fear of needles?
There isn’t a single experience or characteristic that causes someone to have a fear or phobia of needles. Instead, it’s a combination of different biological, psychological and social factors that come together, says McMurtry. This could include genetics, an unpleasant memory or witnessing someone else have a negative experience.
Are you looking for the nearest exit during a blood test? A sign that you might have a fear of needles is wanting to escape during medical procedures or avoiding them altogether. You might find it hard to sit still or get incredibly anxious just thinking about or discussing needles. If these feelings start to interfere with your daily life, it’s a warning sign that your fear is turning into a phobia.