Trypanophobia: The Fear of Needles

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Trypanophobia: The Fear of Needles

A young girl covering her face, afraid of needle / Photo by Shutterstock


Trypanophobia, also known as the fear of needles or needle phobia, is a condition that is fairly common among adults. According to, 20 to 23% of adults have this fear. As a result, these adults who are affected by this phobia often avoid seeking medical assistance even when their health is at risk. Approximately ten percent of Americans have needle phobia as reported by VeryWellMind.

In order to understand why some individuals are afraid of needles and to be able to aid them in dissipating this fear, the symptoms, causes, and treatment of trypanophobia will be presented.


What is Trypanophobia?

Trypanophobia is the fear of needles. However, it does not pertain to the fear of needles as an inanimate object. It is a phobia that specifically refers to being afraid of medical needles.



Three types of trypanophobia according to are:

1. Blood-injury injection phobia (Vasovagal reflex reaction)

This is identified as the most common type of needle phobia. This refers to the occurrence of a person wanting to faint or convulsing before, while the procedure is going on and after it happens.

Furthermore, this type of trypanophobia is purely genetic. The instances that trigger this are the feeling of a needle entering the body even when it is not painful, the anticipation of needle procedures or simply talking about a procedure involving needles.

2. Classic phobia

This type usually starts at around three to six years old and is prompted by a traumatic memory of a medical needle procedure. Unlike the first type, a patient with this condition does not faint the sight of needles. This is caused by most health professionals’ negligence and insensitivity when dealing with children, although often unintended.

3. Hypersensitivity to pain caused by the needle

Only less than one percent experience this type, which means it is a rare case.

A needle procedure that does usually hurt as much to a normal person may cause agonizing pain to this individual.

4. Complications of three types of trypanophobia

In this case, a person may suffer more than one of the previously mentioned types. This a subcategory of the classic phobia and often stems from the incident of them being held down as a child during a medical needle procedure.




To give a more insight on this kind of fear, the symptoms of having trypanophobia usually manifest when a person has to undergo a medical procedure such as getting a dental check-up and having to go through an operation.

According to, the symptoms of a person being irrationally fearful of needles are:

- Feeling that they will faint

- Increase in blood pressure or heart rate

- Full-blown panic attack

- Having scary thoughts and images of needles

- Shortness of breath

- Dry mouth

- Tremors

- Nausea



Causes of trypanophobia cannot be exactly identified by experts. According to, scientists believe it may have been a biological trait since 80% who suffer from the condition reported that a relative also has the same fear.

On the other hand, evolutionary psychologists believe it might have been caused by an ancient survival technique where the fear of puncturing skin was developed. This is because before the invention of antibiotics, puncture wounds were fatal.



Based on the findings of, here are some treatments which could help a person with trypanophobia:

- Systematic desensitization

This form of treatment makes the patient gradually exposed to needles repeatedly until it reduces their fear of medical needles.

- Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy involves assisting the phobic with managing their negative responses and thoughts to medical needles. One part of this procedure may involve asking the patient to write down his fearful thoughts and the therapist helping them turn them into positive ones.

- Hypnotherapy

This kind of therapy explores the origins of their fear and puts the patient in a state of deep relaxation. The use of visualization techniques can help them deal with their fear positively.

- Self-help techniques

Using techniques like meditation, muscle relaxation and deep breathing can also help treat the patient.

- Use of virtual reality

According to, the use of virtual reality while children had to go through an injection session was proven as an effective distraction.

In connection with this, a  study done by Dr. Chad Rudnick, an associate professor of Charles E. Smidt College of Medicine, together with his students Emaan Sulaiman and Jillian Orden, it was revealed that when children wore a virtual reality headset while being injected, the predicted pain and fear of needles dropped by 94.1%.



Most doctors and health professionals often do not take this fear seriously, which results in an increasing number of needle phobics, declares.  If this kind of practice continues, less and less people will seek medical care. Doctors who just tell their patients to just get over their fear are going to make their trypanophobia worse. If then, as a product of this carelessness, people who need medical treatment tend to avoid it, it will become life-threatening to them.

As for the patient, the initiative of wanting to remove their needle phobia must come from them. There may be some therapists who would be open to assist them in their treatment, but if they are unwilling to undergo therapy and other methods of treatment, it would be futile.

Doctors have to be more understanding of the trypanophobia condition and patients have to take steps to treating it before it ruins their health any further.


A patient is afraid of the dentist / Photo by Shutterstock




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