Do needles make you anxious?

If they do, you’re not alone. Up to 25 percent of all adults and kids have a fear of needles and up to 10 percent of these people have a phobia of needles (trypanophobia or belonephobia).1  

There aren’t many people who would say getting a needle is an enjoyable experience, but for those who have a fear or a phobia, it can be debilitating. If they avoid receiving treatment or check-ups due to the fear, it can have devasting effects on their health. 

Damien*, 32 suffers from belonephobia. He explains, “I was quite sick as a small child and after having a traumatic experience, I developed belonephobia.” 

“It’s not about the pain for me. It’s the sensation. I struggle to control it. I feel sick and dizzy, and sometimes I faint. In the past I’ve had to take a couple of days off work just to get a blood test or a vaccination.”  

Damien did everything he could to avoid needles for a long time, however in recent years he has managed to develop control over his belonephobia. 

“I knew it was affecting my health. It had been too long since I had been to the GP for a general health check-up. I have both diabetes and heart disease in my family, so it’s even more important for me to get regular blood tests. I ended up finding great GP who encouraged and supported me to get on top of my health and that really helped.” 

Damien’s tips for anyone who is suffering from fear of needles:  

Arrive hydrated: Even if you need to get a fasted blood test, you should always drink water beforehand. It helps keep more fluid in your veins, which can make it easier to draw blood.  

Let the nurse or pathology collector know about your fear: Nurses and pathology collectors are trained experts, and they are used to dealing with fears and phobias. If it makes you feel more comfortable, ask them how many times they have administered a needle or how much experience they have.  

Ask to lie down: Most collections centres and doctor surgeries will have a bed available. Lying down can help you relax and stay still. It is also much safer to lie down if you are at risk of fainting.  

Take deep breaths: It sounds simple, but deep breathing is a proven way to help you calm you down and reduce stress.  

Close your eyes and listen to music: Closing your eyes and listening to music or a podcast can help you distract yourself from what is happening.  

Ask for professional help: Nothing seems to help? It may be time to talk to a psychologist who may use techniques such as exposure therapy or cognitive behaviour therapy.  

Australian Pathology is the national peak body for private pathology in Australia. Our members include both small specialised laboratories as well as large organisations with laboratories nationwide, representing more than 95% of the industry’s pathology services in Australia. 

*Name changed to protect identity.