A fear of injections can affect an individual’s health and prevent them from getting important vaccinations. Counseling and other therapies may help a person manage or overcome trypanophobia.

Trypanophobia can make it difficult for people to have injections they need for medical purposes and may cause severe anxiety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 4 adults and 2 in 3 children experience intense fear around needles.

This article explains trypanophobia and what may cause it. It discusses the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

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Trypanophobia is a fear of injections.

A 2018 research review suggests people may have different types of phobias related to needles. These phobias may include fear of pins or sharp pointed objects.

However, trypanophobia is when a person specifically fears injections in a medical setting. People with trypanophobia may also fear a doctor drawing blood with a needle or donating blood.

Learn about phobias.

According to the 2018 review mentioned previously, needle phobias can occur in childhood and result from a combination of genetics and life events.

The review states that around 80% of adults with needle phobia have a first-degree relative with the same fear. A caregiver’s fear or anxiety around needles may also affect a child and their perception of pain during an injection.

A fear of injections in childhood may be temporary, but occasionally, it can become highly stressful and develop into a phobia. Experts believe that phobic fear results from a direct conditioning experience and the avoidant behavior that a person has developed toward that experience, according to the review.

In addition, the CDC explains that certain words or images may trigger fears of needles.

For example, seeing pictures of needles or watching news about vaccinations may trigger or cause a fear of injections. Using language such as “shot” to describe injections may also not be helpful, and replacing this with a word such as “poke” may limit the fear response, especially in a child.

The CDC also explains that people who have existing anxiety disorders or conditions that affect how they manage sensations, such as touch, may find it more challenging to manage a fear of needles.

According to the 2018 review mentioned earlier, symptoms of trypanophobia may include:

  • anxiety and fear in the presence of injections or situations when doctors are using injections
  • avoidance of situations where someone needs an injection
  • persistent fear about injections that typically lasts 6 months or more

The review notes that people may have physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. They may also faint at the sight of an injection or during an injection procedure.

A healthcare professional may ask a person to explain their fears and the associated symptoms. They may then compare these with the diagnostic criteria for trypanophobia.

The aforementioned 2018 review notes that the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) criteria for needle phobia state that the fear of needles causes significant distress and avoidance and impairs someone’s functioning in social or occupational settings.

The criteria also suggest that to diagnose a needle phobia, a doctor may first rule out other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or panic disorder.

The CDC advises that the treatment options for trypanophobia depend on the severity of the phobia.

For severe cases, a healthcare professional may recommend counseling or exposure therapy. They may refer someone to a mental health professional and may recommend medication in some cases.

A healthcare professional may also use numbing creams or sprays to decrease the pain of an injection, which may help someone with trypanophobia.

Research from 2022 suggests that needle phobia is a complex issue that involves many factors. It may evolve due to a family history of the phobia or because of pain perception.

Strategies such as using smaller needles and distraction techniques may be helpful. The CDC outlines some additional ways that children and adults may manage or limit their trypanophobia:

  • Understanding the procedure: A healthcare professional explaining the process may help reduce fears around injections.
  • Distraction: Focusing on a video or toy may help to keep someone’s mind busy.
  • Relaxation: Using breathing exercises can help prevent symptoms of anxiety.
  • Hypnosis: Learning and using hypnosis or self-hypnosis techniques can help calm a person’s mind.
  • Vibration or cooling devices: Small devices that buzz on or cool the skin may help the brain focus on that sensation rather than the injection.

Another 2018 review suggests that trypanophobia can affect a person’s health.

For example, people with type 1 diabetes and fear of injections may have greater blood glucose levels. Additionally, the review notes that people with trypanophobia may avoid vaccinations such as influenza or tetanus.

Furthermore, the CDC states that as many as 1 in 10 people may delay getting the COVID-19 vaccine due to trypanophobia. Parents or caregivers with a needle phobia may feel reluctant for doctors to vaccinate their children.

People with needle phobia may be more likely to become severely ill due to avoiding vaccinations or medical treatment that prevent serious diseases when the treatment involves injections.

The following are answers to some questions people frequently ask about trypanophobia.

Is trypanophobia a mental disorder?

A 2018 review explains that a fear of injections is categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

What is the difference between trypanophobia and Aichmophobia?

The previously mentioned 2018 review explains that trypanophobia is a fear of injections, whereas aichmophobia is a fear of sharp, pointed objects that are not necessarily in a medical setting.

Can you overcome trypanophobia?

A person should speak with a healthcare professional about treatment options. They may recommend counseling or other therapies to help overcome trypanophobia.

Trypanophobia may occur due to a family history of needle phobias or be triggered by news articles or other factors. The development of a phobia may be complex and multifactorial. Healthcare and mental health professionals can recommend the most effective treatment based on individual circumstances and needs.

Someone with trypanophobia may avoid medical treatment or vaccinations. This means it is important that a person speaks with a healthcare professional about ways to manage the phobia. Using distraction techniques or smaller needles may help ease their anxiety and perceived pain.