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Needle Phobia....

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Needle Phobia....

Postby Bayleigh » Tue Nov 08, 2011 3:54 pm

Hi Everyone;
I'm brand new to this forum, and am hoping for some answers... or solidarity.... or both. I'm a 27 year old Canadian female. And, I'm coming to understand my needle phobia is more consuming than I'd ever really realized- and finally after 27 years of avoidance I cannot avoid anymore.

I've been fearful of needles my entire life (as early as I can remember). I've gotten by avoiding dental work, doctors and shots for quite a long time. Not conciously avoiding them, just... avoiding them if there is a possibility whatever I need could involve needles.

I don't even know how to describe it- reading the words I'm writting don't seem to convey the level of fear that comes with this. I know nobody likes needles. It's not a fun thing. But, this goes above and beyond a dislike. I'm getting anxious even writting the word needle. I can't even go into a doctors office, or dentist office until I have a full reassurance from the doctor that they will not be using needles (and I have tried creating a written "contract" to have them sign.... but that doesnt go over well). While taking my mother to the hospital, I blacked out when they had to take some of her blood, although I knew there was no threat to me. The level of anxiety is unbearable. If someone tries to give me a needle, I almost black out- it's uncontrollable. I shake, I shiver, I cry, my entire body tenses up, and I physically CANNOT do it. I am conciously awake, but I have no control over my actions what-so-ever. I hit out in fear (on one occasion, I bit my mother in the arm hard enough to warrant stitches). I know that needles can't hurt me, I KNOW they don't hurt.... but there is something about the needle itself that I cannot handle. I have a very high pain threshold (long term self injurer... in recovery), and have no fear of what the needle is going to do (it doesn't bother me that something is going to be in my body, it doesn't bother me that they need to take blood, etc)... but I cannot handle needles themselves.

I've gotten by for so long, by avoiding medical care. In the few instances I've had to have needles, it's generally at a point in which my health is at a great risk, and it cannot be avoided (ie; emergency apendectomy). For dental things, I've had the gas to put me to sleep before they give me the needle. Atavan doesn't work, the panic gets through the medication (and it wasnt dulled... I just felt high and scared).

I'd continue my happy little life of avoidance, but in July I felt a lump in my breast. Which I ignored until September, when I noticed it was getting bigger. So, I went to the dr. Got an ultrasound... 5 lumps, that look strange. This dr recommended a biopsy, so I went to a different doctor. Same report- 5 lumps, we need a biopsy. So, I went to another doctor yesterday, at a specific breast health centre... Everything was going fine, they gave me a mammogram- didn't like the results, they opted to give me another ultrasound... I was laying there, they did the ultrasound, then the nurse says "the doctor will be right in to do your biopsy." Aaaand I lost it. The nurse came in, then another nurse came in, then my mother came in.... and I explained to them "I will try... but I can't promise I can do it." After 15 minutes of "calming me down" (deep breathing exercizes, assurances that nothing bad would happen), the doctor came in to do the needle. He did an ultrasound to find the biopsy site, he marked an x on the screen, and then I flipped out. The nurse was holding my arm in a position so he could do it, the other nurse was holding my leg down, my mom was rubbing my back, and I knew it would be safe, but I couldn't do it. I hyperventalated until I almost passed out, my entire body tensed up, and my legs started spassaming.... Eventually, after fighting me for 15 minutes, the doctor said he couldn't "waste anymore" of his time, and left.

Now, I KNOW I have to have the biopsy... if I have cancer, I need to know. I KNOW it's not going to be painful... but I cannot do it. What the hell do I do!? Does anyone have any advice?
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Re: Needle Phobia....

Postby AmyMD » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:07 pm

Hey, Bayleigh-

First, you're not alone. 22% of adults fear needles enough to impact their health care. For the 3% most severely affected who faint (vasovagal response) this is largely genetic. We've also found that those who fear needles the most often have more intense sensitivity to other stimulation of the a-delta pain nerves. It makes sense that those with a bad needle experience and/or those who feel pain more intensely are more afraid of needles. It's a logical reaction.

There are several good web pages that have details on different ways to deal. If you google needle phobia the first page that pops up is pretty helpful.

In a nutshell, there are topical anesthetics (EMLA, LMX) that can numb the surface of the skin. Getting your doctor to prescribe a small amount of an anxiety medication (such as oral midazolam, or "versed") can help lower the anxiety (because that also increases pain). During the procedure, having a distraction with counting and finding (think "where's waldo") offered by a friend can help. If you're prone to fainting or feeling nauseated, see if you can have the procedure done lying down with your knees up in the air to keep blood flowing to your head. Also, since you're likely to be sensitive to other sensations, try blocking the needle site with a hand-held massager and/or ice. I wouldn't do ice alone for a blood draw, it could vasoconstrict, but research shows combining the two actually can increase IV success. If nothing else bring a friend with fingernails who can scratch above the needle site, or even concentrate on something vibrating or scratchy in the hand opposite the side with the procedure.

Hope this helps,

Dr. Amy
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