TRYPANOPHOBIA: Fear of Needles Phobia (Symptoms & Treatment)

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Trypanophobia consists of an irrational or excessive fear of needles, pins or injections.

Although most people, children especially, fear getting their vaccination shots or blood samples taken, in case of people with extreme fear of needles, the idea of getting one triggers an immediate anxiety response.
It is a very real phobia affecting nearly 3.5 to 10% of the worlds population.

In very severe cases of Trypanophobia, the avoidance, anxiety or distress associated with the condition may interfere with ones daily routine, occupational functioning or social and personal relationships and can actually worsen the phobics condition as the diagnoses for the particular ailment affecting him/her cannot be determined.

Causes of the fear of needles phobia.

Prior discussing common causes of Trypanophobia, it is first essential to distinguish between normal childhood fear and actual fear of needles phobia. Crying, tantrums, clinging, freezing in children before an injection shot is common behavior in preschoolers and will not interfere with ones daily activities. In adults however, the phobia can lead to behavior problems as well as extreme avoidance and anxiety symptoms.

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The various explanations for the fear of needles phobia as given by doctors include:

* Injections are generally unpleasant for most people. In case of Trypanophobia, the person might have a painful memory or a frightening experience with his first injection. For a child, getting an injection from a doctor ( who is in fact a stranger to the child, is in itself frightening). he is unable to fathom why the parents are not protecting him from the pain.
* Parents, grandparents and caregivers may also be responsible for instilling a fear of needles in the child. One often uses statements like: Stay away from infected needles, you may catch a disease, or be brave when you get your shot etc and these can lead to fearful thoughts about needles.
* If a significant adult in ones life displays the fear of needles, then the child unknowingly learns it.
* A child might have seen an elderly relative receiving a shot and then passing away later. This forms an unpleasant association between needles and death., placing Thanatophobic thoughts in the individual’s mind.
* Receiving bad news like testing positive for a serious disease after a blood test or that of the death of a close friend/family member while seeing needles at the same time can lead to fear of needles.
* Drawing blood, feeling faint, or having an increased heart rate are a few more negative associations with needles. Some individuals simply worry about embarrassing themselves or fainting and hence they tend to avoid needles completely.

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Symptoms of Trypanophobia

The symptoms of the fear of needles phobia vary depending upon the intensity of fear which range from mild to extremely intense. Some Nosocomephobics experience the following physical and emotional, and/or psychological symptoms:

* Feeling faint, passing out at the sight or thought of needles
* Having an increased heart rate and palpitations or blood pressure
* Shortness of breath, dry mouth, shuddering, shivering tremors, and nausea are a few more physical symptoms of Trypanophobia.
* Full blown panic attack is likely when the person fears s/he cannot escape the needles
* Frightening thoughts and images about needles, death, pain etc lead one to be unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

Apart from fear of needles, many Trypanophobic individuals fear everything related to blood and may even be hemophobic (hate and fear the sight of blood).

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Overcoming and treatment available for overcoming Trypanophobia.

Common with other anxiety disorder phobias, doctors have recommended the use of tranquillisers and antidepressants to calm down sensitised phobics, this method should be prescribed only by the prescription by an expert medical consultant and should not be abused because studies have shown that this drugs abuse can lead to withdrawal symptoms on the phobic.
Trypanophobia can be overcome by using systematic desensitization. This process involves gradual exposure to needles so that, with repetition and practice, the process of getting an injection loses its anxiety-causing power. This therapy can be self administered, or one can take help from a therapist.

Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive behavior therapy are other techniques that help manage the negative thoughts and responses to needles and injections. Strategies implemented here include writing down fearful thoughts and changing them into positive ones etc.
Another highly efficient therapy that takes effect in a very short time is one-on-one clinical hypnotherapy. These sessions bring about deep relaxation in the patient and help explore roots of the phobia.

Self help techniques like deep and controlled breathing, meditation, yoga and muscle relaxation are also recommended by experts.
However, it need not take control over ones life and simple exercises and practices can be used to gain control over one’s fear and increase the quality of life and relationships.

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