Trypanophobia – you’ll just feel a little prick….

A phobia which is probably one of the most difficult to monitor in terms of true figures of sufferers is trypanophobia, more commonly known as needle phobia. The reason being that many people will simply not face their fears and avoid medical treatment at all cost and therefore make it difficult to know they exist in the first place.


It is modestly estimated that around 20% of people have a fear of needles with 10% having an actual phobia. It is one of the few phobias that can actually cause premature death as phobics will avoid treatment with a needle which could be lifesaving. Diabetics for example may avoid monitoring their glucose levels by testing their blood with a needle prick to the thumb which can result in serious complications if ignored.

Needle phobia is caused by different conditions that can be interrelated or stand-alone concerns. One is the biological reaction which can be genetically inherited. Man is evolutionarily conditioned to avoid being stabbed by sharp objects piercing the skin which could cause instant death or fatal infection. 

The jab felt by a needle penetrating the skin causes an involuntary and unexpected reaction and this is inherently remembered every time. It can cause a ‘vasovagal reflex’, a physiological reaction which immediately causes a sudden rise in blood pressure followed by a plunge in pressure which can cause fainting and other associated symptoms such as nausea, sweating, pallor, tinnitus, and panic attacks. This is seldom experienced by youngsters who have not yet reached puberty.

Another condition associated with needle phobia is associative trauma. This is commonly first experienced around the ages of 4-6 years old and may be triggered by watching an older sibling crying and scared receiving an injection. It may also be caused by the child being lied to by the adults as they trusted them when told it ‘wouldn’t hurt’ and they ‘wouldn’t feel a thing’. This then builds over the years and it is the associated fear rather than the actual pain that causes the phobia.

Around 1% of people suffer from being hypersensitive to pain and find needle penetration excruciating and simply cannot understand how others can deal with it so calmly.

Resistive fear to needles is associated with perhaps being held down and restrained when younger during a medical procedure. They can become very combative even if normally a very passive person and can literally physically fight off the medic, even fleeing from the scene.

Vicarious needle phobia is caused by witnessing perhaps a loved one in the past receiving treatment and perhaps dying anyway from the illness. This causes negative association with the needle and the person will do all he can to avoid treatment of any kind regardless of the initial experience witnessed. Some of these needle phobias and fears are co-morbid with other phobias such as Iatrophobia – fear of doctors.

Trypanophobia was officially recognised in 1994 as a serious problem which, if left unaddressed can be fatal. Phobics refuse to seek medical treatment in case it involves needles and as a result, it is thought many premature deaths are caused by this. The fear is not the needle itself as an inanimate object but of the connection to medical procedure therefore the majority of phobics would have no problem with picking up and holding a needle in other non-medical circumstances. The medical profession do not take it seriously enough and often make the person feel silly and a nuisance. Telling them to ‘grow up’ or ‘just do it’ is akin to telling an anorexic to ‘just eat’ or a manic depressive to ‘cheer up’. Part of the reason is because they think it is a rare phobia which they do not come across very often but the opposite is true – they do not come across it simply because the phobic does not initiate contact in the first place.

It is thought that if the true number was known, it would be one of the major causes of premature deaths; however, it is impossible to obtain the true figure as phobics simply do not seek medical intervention under any circumstances until it is too late.

So what can be done to help alleviate this problem?  

There are several solutions which might work for some people. An anaesthetic cream could be rubbed on the area the needle will penetrate and this, coupled by the person looking away can help resolve the immediate issue.  

Alternatives to injections may be available such as in tablet form, patches or creams though these may not fully eradicate the problem completely and prolong recovery. Both of these solutions only address that particular incident and does not cure the phobia.

Hypnotherapy has gained in popularity as a viable way of treating this phobia once and for all. It is often used in dental practices and by some doctors to gain trust and help their patient overcome their fear of pain and needles.

If seeking out a hypnotherapist to help you overcome your phobia he will explain in full beforehand what the therapy sessions entail. You will be guided to a state of relaxation where you will feel calm and in control. He will bypass your conscious mind and address your unconscious mind which stores your fears and phobias. Your conscious mind probably knows your phobia is irrational and yet you feel helpless to change how you feel as it appears to be out with your control. However, the therapist can help you rationalise internally perhaps by letting you see the benefits of allowing a needle procedure and allowing these positive aspects to overcome the negativity you feel towards injections.

Needle phobia is probably one of the most common phobias hypnotherapists deal with as it is essential it is dealt with before real harm is done due to neglect. No one likes to have a needle stuck in them but it is necessary at times and could save your life or at the very least, give relief. The hypnotherapist can help by putting it into perspective and by treating the accompanying fears, the client will realise that the actual penetration of the needle itself was never the issue, only the associated physiological and psychological symptoms which have now been eradicated.

Don’t delay in seeking help – it could one day save your life!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow G2 & London W1H
Written by Biodun Ogunyemi, Certified Master Hypnotherapist ANLP,BNLP,SNLP,C.H,Dip.Hyp
Glasgow G2 & London W1H

Biodun Ogunyemi is the founder of Optimind, one of the leading hypnotherapy practices within the UK. He has practiced on Harley Street and is an experienced hypnotherapist, trained to the highest level in Advanced Hypnotherapy and NLP and is the author of over 180 hypnosis products.

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