The tension of a pounding heart and veins begging to crawl out of my body choke me with fear. A cold sweat creeps in, and my mind is racing. I’m desperate for an escape, and the rational, rule-following me is replaced with a bargaining, pleading mess of a woman. It doesn’t matter if it’s a shot, an IV, a finger prick, or a blood test. It doesn’t matter if is happening today or if I’m just sitting at the doctor’s for a checkup.
Needle phobia never leaves me. It taunts me when I have a medical appointment. It causes me to put off screenings and trips to the doctor at all costs. It overpowers me when I’m flipping through television and see a picture of a needle or a clip with an IV. It’s there every moment, every day. It’s there even when I’m sitting at home or driving in the car. The constant question stirs the fear: What if something happens, and I need medical work requiring a needle? The possibility of facing my biggest fear is always lurking around the corner. It’s not a question of when I will have to face my phobia; it is a question of when.
Needle phobia, in many ways, keeps me in a glass box. There’s always the fear of something going wrong, of something happening that will lead to a shot, to an IV, to a need for medical attention.
Needle phobia or anxiety comes in many forms. For some, it’s a mild form of anxiety. For others, it’s positively debilitating, leading to very real physical reactions. For some, the phobia was always present, and for others, it was stirred by a negative event. For some who are phobic of needles, it’s the lack of control, the pain, or the sight. For others, it’s an unexplainable fear.
Like all phobias, there are so many versions. But the thing I’m here to say is: Needle phobia, like any other phobia, is real.
All my life, I’ve been told patronizing, condescending things about my very real phobia. “You’ll get over it,” or “Suck it up,” or “Stop being a chicken” all come to mind. I’ve had doctors dismiss my phobia as immaturity or tell me no one likes needles, so I’m no different than anyone else. I’ve had medical professionals tell me “Too bad” or “Deal with it.” I’ve been told that I’ll get over it when I’m older.
I’m 28, and I’m still not over it.
I know my phobia is irrational. I know a shot or an IV isn’t going to kill me. I know the pain is minimal. But it doesn’t quiet the fear, the racing mind, or the desire to crawl out of my own skin. It doesn’t stop the wild tears from flowing in a medical setting. It doesn’t quiet the countdown clock that begins when I know I have to get a shot or medical work. It doesn’t stop me from agonizing over how many days, how many more dinners, or how many more sleeps until it’s “D-Day.” It doesn’t make me stop cringing when I see a needle on television or when a friend tells a descriptive medical story.
I’ve spent so many years being embarrassed about my phobia. While other phobias seem to be “okay” to admit to, many people don’t seem to understand that needle phobia is real. I’ve met very few people who are willing to admit to having an extreme phobia of needles. It seems like a weakness to admit to. People don’t understand the depth of the fear or the fact it’s not something you can just get over. I’ve grown up thinking I was odd for having this phobia. I’ve grown up thinking I’m a weak person, a chicken, a wimp, or even crazy for my fear. I’ve told myself to get over it, to move past it, to just “suck it up.” However, the fear is always there, the phobia is always nearby.
However, the one positive that’s come from my phobia is that I’m more understanding of all phobias. Unless you have a phobia of something, it can be easy to dismiss others’ fears. I never do. I know what it’s like to be gripped by overpowering fear even when your mind is telling you to stop.
I also have learned that it’s okay to own up to my phobia. I’ve learned I’m not alone. I’ve learned to be honest with medical professionals about my anxieties because if they are the right medical professional for me, they’ll try to understand my fears instead of dismiss them.
So please, if you are a medical professional, understand for people like me, the fear, while irrational, is very real. It’s not something we can just “get over.” Believe me, we would if we could. The cold terror is the same as with any other phobia, except we have to face up to our phobia in order to stay healthy. Please realize that dismissing our phobia or telling us to get over it isn’t making anything better. Please recognize that our phobia is as real as any other phobia.
And if you have a phobia of needles, please know that no matter what it seems like, there are more of us than it seems.