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Article for Body + Soul Magazine

Trypanophobia, or needle phobia, is a common condition affecting 3 to 10 per cent of people, tells Dr Cris Beer.

Needle phobia is a very common condition estimated to affect 3 to 10 per cent of the population. The issue with needle phobia is that those who suffer from it will tend to avoid healthcare settings and so could be missing out on important medical care.

It is not known exactly what causes some people to experience needle phobia and others to not suffer from this condition but there is some evidence that a genetic link may be at play. Those who report severe needle phobia symptoms are more likely to have at least one first degree relative who experiences the same. Such symptoms include a vasovagal response to needles – whether injected into the body or just by way of seeing a needle – which includes a lowered blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting or near-fainting. This can then set up an anxiety response due to fear of fainting such as sweating, a dry mouth, shaking, and over-breathing whenever even the thought of a needle arises.

The treatment for needle phobia is not just a matter of ‘getting over it’ as some people may believe but rather dealing with the underlying body and emotional responses. The following strategies have been suggested helpful in helping someone overcome needle phobia.


Using a numbing cream at the site of the injection may help to alleviate some of the discomfort and pain of having an injection. This may in turn help to reduce a future anxiety response to needles. Numbing cream is available from chemists without a prescription.

Anxiety medications

This may be taken just before a medical procedure involving needles. These medications significantly lower the anxiety response but can also lead to drowsiness so someone will be required to drive you home afterwards.

Lying down

This can help to reduce the fainting response to a needle. Do remain in this position until the procedure is completely over and then very slowly move to a sitting or standing position.
Fainting medication

Known as beta-blockers which can help to reduce the fainting response if this is the main concern.

Breathing exercises

These can help to reduce the anxiety response and is best taught by a qualified health practitioner such as your local doctor or psychologist. If your needle phobia was initially the result of a bad experience in childhood such as receiving your immunisations then discussing this with a psychologist who can undertake something known as cognitive behavioural therapy may help.

If you do suffer from needle phobia don’t hope it will go away but discuss it with your local doctor.


Dr Cris

Holistic Medical Doctor, Author ‘Healthy Habits, 52 Ways to Better Health

Healthy Habits book Dr Cris