Needle Fears and Phobia

The CDC shared that many people do not like needles as part of medical procedures when they receive care. But for some, the fear of needles is so great that it might prevent them from getting life-saving medical care, like vaccinations. This fear often affects children but can affect adults, too. Estimates show that as many as 2 in 3 children and 1 in 4 adults have strong fears around needles. As many as 1 in 10 people might delay the COVID-19 vaccine due to these fears. Fear of needles is also common in people with certain conditions that cause difficulties with managing strong sensations, such as in people with mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. Fear of needles can also be common in people with disabilities making it hard for them to understand the procedures and communicate their concerns. There are ways to manage this fear.

When Fears Become Phobia

Getting medications or vaccines through a needle – or having blood or other fluids are taken by a needle – can be painful. Many people remember the discomfort and pain and worry about it occurring again when they return to get health procedures involving needles. This is typical. Younger children have fewer ways to handle their fears and need help and comfort from their parents or other caregivers. As children get older, many find ways to handle their fears on their own.

But for some, these fears are more severe, can persist into adolescence and adulthood, and are best described as phobias. Needle phobias can be learned from an experience of pain, but there is also a biological component that makes some people react very strongly to the idea of procedures involving a needle.

Phobia means extreme fear that does not fit the danger or damage involved. Phobias are sometimes called ‘irrational’ because the feelings are real but much more extreme than the actual danger or harm.

These phobias can make procedures feel more painful, lead to severe panic, and in some cases to a physical response that causes fainting. This can make it extremely difficult to consider getting medical procedures involving needles. Estimates show that as many as 2 in 3 children and 1 in 4 adults have strong fears around needles.  As many as 1 in 10 people might delay the COVID-19 vaccine due to these fears. People who have mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders such as anxiety disorders, people with certain disabilities, and people with certain conditions that affect how they manage sensations like touch or movement, may have more difficulty managing such fears. People with disabilities may be less likely to get vaccinations even though they may be more at risk for certain illnesses, such as severe effects of COVID-19. Parents who have fears of needles themselves may hesitate to have their children vaccinated.

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