Agophobia: How to overcome the fear of needles

Blood sampling, intravenous therapies and vaccinations can become a nightmare for those suffering from needle phobia (also called belonephobia or aichmophobia), i.e. the fear of needles, which seems to affect one in ten people worldwide. This discomfort can manifest itself in various forms: “There are those who fear the needle for the pain that can involve piercing the skin and there are those who imagine catastrophic scenarios about any damage that may result from it, such as losing consciousness, being left without strength, risking death or being left with an injured, maimed or disabled arm,” he explains Sara Sblendorio, nurse expert in complementary therapies and hypnotic communication in Turin. “These are obviously irrational fears, but capable of inducing an instinctive reaction in needle phobics that leads them to avoid injections and syringes to save their lives.”

What is agophobia

While for some people it is enough “not to look”, others experience withdrawals and injections in a highly critical way, arriving at demonstrating sweating, tachycardia, trembling, crying, until fainting. «Often, the fear of needles extends to the entire healthcare context, hence needle phobics they panic every time they enter the hospitalsee a white coat or set foot in a care environment,” describes the expert.

“They therefore avoid putting themselves in those conditions, for which they evade controls and end up not doing the right prevention”. Absurdly, however, it may happen that they are not afraid of needles in other contexts, to the point that it is not uncommon to meet needle phobics who show off various tattoos on their bodies: «The environment can make a difference. When it’s not sanitary, but is associated with a playful, aesthetic or social aspect, fear vanishes. Sometimes, then, even an injection can be experienced better if it is done at home, by personnel “in civilian clothes” and without lab coats”.

What are the causes of agophobia

Typically, agophobia has atraumatic originwhich can be conscious or unconscious. “In the first case, the person remembers an unpleasant episode that occurred in childhood, adolescence or in adulthood, when a sample or an injection proved to be particularly painful or annoying,” says Sblendorio.

«Especially as children, the fear of the classic sting can easily turn into fear of dying: during the injection, children feel deprived of maternal protection, “manipulated” by strangers, held against their will and subjected to real violence, who do not know what it will entail». Other times, however, this fear can be passed down genetically: for example, when a future mother feels discomfort during a blood sample, the fetus can feel this fear, in the form of cellular perception, and risks inheriting it with a mechanism that could influence it forever.

How is agophobia treated?

Don’t be afraid to admit your fear: at the time of sampling or injection, it is good to communicate the discomfort notified to the healthcare personnel, who can implement (or suggest) dedicated and personalized strategies. «The ideal would be to identify a nurse specialized in hypnotic communication, capable of using various tools, such as relaxation, distraction activities or hypnotic techniques, to help the needle-phobic person deal with the experience in a different way», reports Sara Sblendorio.

«The patient can learn to self-hypnotize, focusing on bodily sensations or mental images, and together learn tricks to distract himself during the medical procedure, such as listen to music, focus on breathing, watch videos or perform small activities, such as opening and closing the hand of the arm not involved in the collection or counting down».

How to “heal”

To definitively overcome the problem, one can entrust to expert psychotherapists in phobias which help to “relive” the original experience (the one that triggered the agophobia) in a different way, allowing the brain to record it in a non-traumatic way, perhaps combining it with a positive element, such as an image or a sensation.

“Some specialists resort toEMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or to Desensitization and Reprocessing through Eye Movements, a technique that works on the unconscious to unlock a non-rational memory», concludes Sblendorio. «In concrete terms, EMDR sessions are able to access memories of traumatic experiences to process those memories and bring them to an adaptive resolution. In short, agophobia can be cured. Let’s not despair.”