Stupid Needle Phobia! (TMI)

I’m going back to school in June, so I can get my teacher’s certification. But they won’t let me on the college campus until I show them that I’m fully vaccinated, including being vaccinated against the highly contagious tetanus germ. Grr.

This wouldn’t be so bad, except that I’ve got a nasty fear of needles. Bad enough that, for the past two nights, I’ve been taking sleeping pills to get to sleep: I was that worried about my appointment today, at which I’d get the tetanus booster.

The exam was fine; I was able to talk and even joke with my doctor about my fear of needles. When the nurse sat me down for the shot, I was apparently able (without trying to) to fool her into thinking I was calm about the whole thing, even though I was quietly in full-blown panic mode.

The needle entered my arm–I barely felt it–and then it was over, in about two seconds. My relief was astonishing. That’s it? That’s it?! I’d been stressing out, snapping at my wife, losing sleep, experiencing phantom pains, obsessing over that? Piece of cake! I’d overcome my phobia! “You can go,” the nurse said.

And that’s when I realized I couldn’t stand up. “Ummm, I’ll just sit here for a minute,” I mumbled, or at least I hope I mumbled. The nurse probably looked over (my eyes were closed, my head sagging), and quickly brought me a cold rag to press on my forehead. She had to tell me thrice to put my head between my knees before I comprehended what she wanted me to do. I fought to maintain consciousness, even as I thought, “well, THIS is stupid. I hate this.”

A couple minutes later it occurred to me that my rising gorge required attention. I stumbled to the bathroom, four feet from where I sat, but didn’t quite make it there in time. I was a repulsive mess.

It’s several hours later now. I’ve showered, brushed my teeth, used mouthwash. But I still feel woozy. And, depending on what my childhood medical records say, I may have to go back for a measles booster.


This phobia has been with me since I was eight, at least–that’s when I remember getting thoroughly sick after reading an account of a snakebite, which was close enough to a needle to send me over the edge. I’ve avoided travelling to foreign countries because of this phobia. I’ve lost sleep over it. I’ve humiliated myself over it. I have to leave the room if people are telling their needle stories.

I thought of putting this in the Pit, or in MPSIMS, but it’s here because it ends in a (non-factually-answered) question: have other people had similar phobia experiences–especially with phobias whose object you very rarely encounter, but when you do encounter it, you know days or weeks in advance that it’s coming up? Has anyone here overcome such a phobia? If so, HOW?


My son’s father has a similar phobia, which prevented him from being available to me during my son’s birth. I think it goes beyond just needles though because, when he joined me at the clinic for an ultrasound, he got all sweaty and shaky and almost passed out. I think it’s pretty much anything medical, but needles more than everything else. Just seeing a needle (not even necessarily for him, as evidenced by a visit to a sick relative in the hospital recently) is enough to make him pass out.

He’s not over it and he probably never will be. I just wanted to let you know you aren’t alone. :slight_smile:

I have a similar needle phobia. I don’t faint or vomit, but I do cry and shake. I can’t listen to other people’s needle stories (a CURSE on people who think they can “desensitize” me by telling me their horrible needle story) or watch things involving needles on TV or in movies.

I don’t have any tips for getting over it, either. Just wanted you to know you’re not the only one.

Yeah, I really have to steel myself to watch needle scenes. Strangely, the more violent the scene, the easier it is for me: Pulp Fiction’s* stabbing scene was nowhere near as nauseating for me as the earlier, beautiful blood-curling-into-the-heroin-needle scene, and even that wasn’t as bad as scenes in which patients calmly receive shots.

And I hate how people, on learning I have a phobia, like to tell their worst most painful needle stories. Guys, IT AIN’T FUNNY. You can tease me about other things, but watching me turn pale and sweaty is just sadism on your part. My leaving the room usually cues them into the fact that they’ve gone too far, though.

Thanks, folks, for the posts–it is helpful to me to realize that I’m not some weird freak (or at least the phobia doesn’t make me a freak). I may know that intellectually, but viscerally I feel like a whiny six-year-old for worrying so much about something so trivial.

Hmm…I may start a GQ thread about a related issue. Even as I was almost fainting, I was thinking, “Fascinating–why is my body doing this? I’m not scared, and it’s over, and it didn’t hurt, and the nurse did a great job. What’s freaking my body out?” I’m wondering what sort of research there is into the physiology of phobias.


I had a really bad needle phobia for many, many years which I believe stemmed from asthma shots I had to take as a very young child. I’ve only recently gotten to the point where I can deal with looking at needles and getting a shot without shitting my pants.

And, for me, that’s one of the worst things about phobias, and one of the hardest things for people who don’t have phobias to understand. Intellectually, I know that the thing I have a phobia of isn’t so bad, but that doesn’t make a damn bit of difference when I’m faced with it. And the fact that I can’t use logic to make myself not react to it is irritating in and of itself.

And we’re definitely not the only ones with needle phobia- the only estimate that I could find of how many people have it says at least 10% probably do.

There’s some evidence that needle phobia can be genetic. I’m pretty sure mine is- my father and sister both have a phobia of needles, too.

I can’t even look at people put eyedrops in their eyes, let alone have it done to me . . . I haven’t been to an eye doctor in ten years. There’s nothing wrong with my eyes (that I know of!) but I really need to be checked for glaucoma and have my glasses re-jiggered. I’ll get around to it one of these days . . .

Heh–Eve, I can sympathize with that, too. For some reason, the numbing drops they put in one’s eyes make me pass out. I was astonished the first time this happened: I had no idea that I’d have any negative reaction at all, and I didn’t even believe the doctor when he first told me I’d passed out.

I don’t know whether it’s related to my needle-thing or if it’s a straight-up allergy to the drops. In any case, I don’t let them do the drops any more; otherwise, I can deal with the optometrist.


I hate needles. Hate 'em. I cry, I shake. But I’m trying to get over it by giving blood.

Last time I gave blood, I was really proud of myself. Needle in with minimal freaking out, filled the bag dang quick, needle out was fine too. The nurse has me hold that little gauze wad on my elbow-pit. Tra la laaa, life is good. Then she has me take it off to put on the band-aid. I look at the gauze. There is a spot of blood, no bigger than this --> O. I passed out right then and there. I assume my limbic system knew something was off, but didn’t know what. When it saw the blood it went “CRAP! My blood is gone!” :eek: and lost it. Maybe it was a similar thing for you, your thinking “Hey, that wasn’t so bad” caused your body to remember exactly what had happened.

I’m the same way. I react to eyedrops about the same way my cat did when I had to give her eyedrops- she flinched really hard to get away from them. I flinch like that if something gets too near my eye.

I hadn’t been to the eye doctor in 3 years. I only went because I tripped and fell and scratched my glasses really badly. I was also scared of them finding glaucoma or something else wrong, because that would probably mean I’d have to get eyedrops. I have a generalized phobia of going to doctors for fear that they will find something seriously wrong.

When I was around seven or eight years old, I learned that my older sister was very, very afraid of needles. So I made up my mind to be exactly the opposite. Whenever I went to the doctor, I would ask for a shot … just so I could hear Mom & Dad brag on me to my sister. If there was ever a choice in how medicine was administered, I always opted for the injection.

As I got a little older, I realized the stupidity of this. And God showed me His sense of humor years later, when I discovered I have high cholesterol. Now, every six months, I have to have blood taken for testing, long past the time when I want to have needles in me.

My wife, the lovely and talented Aries28, has a healthy needle phobia. She’s only recently gotten over the worst of her fear and allowed doctors and nurses to use regular-gauge needles on her. Before that, she insisted on having the pediatric needles used whenever she had to have a shot or blood taken.

I know the feeling. I can take fish-hooks, knife wounds, nails, and jagged pieces of rusty metal better than I can take needles. And for some reason, it like there is little else more emasculating than having a fear of needles. I hate it when people tell me I’m just a “big baby.” It doesn’t help! Best solution for that is usually smacking the person in the head, but you can’t always do that!

I start freaking out weeks in advance too. I’m in a pertpetual nervous state, eventually culminating in my desire to grap a stethescope and fight my way out of the doctor’s office by any means neccessary. Last time I got a shot they literally had to get four extra people in there to hold me still. My doctor even said, “I might consider investing in some leather straps; it might save me money in the long run.” I was not amused.

Most needle phobias I wager are probably psychological. I think the reason I freak out is due to a bad experience I had when I was seven. I went to the emergency room, and for some reason they had to give me a shot in my foot. That just sent me over the edge and I started flipping out (as I still do today) and they had to hold me down then as well.

Just thinking about all this gives me the willies.

I fainted after having my blood drawn for my school physical…for nursing school.

Now I just remind myself “It’s better to give than receive.”

Interestingly, your blood is fine with me. My blood, however is a whole 'nother story.

The women in my family pass out after injections and blood draws. I have the least version, because of weekly allergy shots that have made me resiliant. I used to get tunnel vision with “nurses in the sky” effect, but it has diminshed. My sister is fine through the whole needle business, but then passes out. If she concentrates hard and waves her toes, she stays conscious better, but is still unable to drive due to having to keep her head down. My mother gets woozey and has to lay down. None of us have any phobia or even real fear of needles, at least on a conscious level. I don’t really know why it happens.

As a needle-phobic, I forgive you for tormenting your sister, because you were young and didn’t know any better. My curse was directed against supposedly mature people who do that kind of thing, either out of some misguided desire to help or some sick sense of fun (more against the latter, of course).

If you don’t mind my asking, who takes the Minions to the pediatrician when you know there’s going to be needles involved? Mr Neville and I have planned that, when the (as-yet unconceived, not even trying yet, but going to someday) Neville kid or kids need to go to the doctor for shots, he will take them. I suspect any child of mine would have a good chance of a genetic predisposition to phobias, and I think they could easily learn to be afraid from watching me freak out.

Another embarrassing needle-phobia story:

I took Katya, the younger of the two Neville kitties, to the vet to get a rabies shot.

You should know that Katya is a fairly nervous cat. She doesn’t like loud noises or sudden moves, and it’s quite easy to inadvertently scare her and make her run.

The vet grabbed her scruff and a needle that was as long as my index finger (and looked blunt) :eek: :eek: :eek: I had to look away when the vet gave her the shot.


So now I know that I am more afraid of needles than my little scaredy-cat is.

Oddly enough it’s not the needles that bother me so much as the blood-and then only in the abstract. I’m a Med. tech. and handle buckets of the stuff every day but just don’t anyone talk about it. Once, on a tour of the local blood center, I nearly passed out just listening to the guide describe the donation process. Yet, as a student, I was sticking needles into people myself.

One thing that you might try that helped me with my phobias was the technique of visualization. Imagine yourself in the situation you dread, be as realistic as possible, feel the same feelings, then imagine yourself reacting differently than you did before, remaining calm, collected. And conscious preferably. ( :wink: ) Run through this same scenario several times, like a rehearsal sort of. I was really surprised at how this method allowed me to keep more in control of my reactions in stressful situations.

Good luck.

Sorry I don’t have any good advice or encouragement, Daniel. All I have is a quote from Robert Louis Stevenson, in Kidnapped -

Good luck on the teacher cert.




(On topic, I detest needles, and generally stay far away from them, if possible, but I’ve never passed up or passer la gorge, which is a phrase I just made up.)

I have a weird version of needle-phobia: you can give me all the shots you want…doesn’t bother me. But don’t tell me you want to draw blood.

I have no idea what it is, but just thinking about someone looking for a vein squicks me out. And to make matters worse, the last time I had blood drawn I think the tech went all the way through my vein. I bled a lot under the skin, and had a giant dark purple patch that wrapped almost all the way around my arm and hurt like hell. I am one of those people who bruises easily, though. :frowning:

I have found over the years that when I have to have blood drawn, it’s best if I just go ahead and tell the nurses that I am a big wussy about that and that I need their best vampire. Most places will go out of their way to be extra gentle (usually, they have me lie down while they take the blood).

And for what it’s worth, I often get told that LOTS of people have issues with needles…so it’s no big whup to them. I have had several nurses thank me for telling them ahead of time, and ask me questions about how I usually react so they can be ready for whatever I need. Easier on them, easier on me.

I had a terrible phobia about needles when I was younger. I used to really worry that I’d never get a chance to travel because I couldn’t face the vaccinations I’d need. Then a neighbor was in an accident and everyone was asked to give blood in her name, so I figured I’d use that opportunity for altruism to get over my fear. When I went in, the phlebotomist told me to think of the needle not as something that punctures the skin, but to think that the point is so tiny, it actually enters between the cells of the skin. For some reason, this visualization really helped me. I also try to remember the millions of other people who get shots or blood draws every year and how it hasn’t killed any of em yet. Anyway, I managed to overcome my phobia. I can’t give blood because the lightheadedness/nausea I get from that is physiological, not psychological. I’m fine with other blood draws and shots. I draw blood on other people now, but still don’t watch the needle enter my own arm.