Coping with self-injection anxiety

Coping with self-injection anxiety

If you struggle with anxiety over injecting your own medications with a needle at home, you aren’t alone. The intense fear of needles – also known as trypanophobia – is a very common phobia to have. Although it’s mostly common in children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 1 in 4 adults also experience this fear.   

“Needle phobia can be a strong fear to manage,” adds Dr. Katie E. Thompson, an internal medicine physician at Aurora Health Care.  

Self-injected medications are common for many conditions and therapies such as diabetes, weight loss and fertility treatments. Depending on the medication, you may need to self-inject daily, weekly or monthly. If you have a strong fear of needles, you may hesitate to move forward with a potentially life-saving treatment plan. You may also avoid important vaccinations. 

“You should not let your fear of needles stop you from taking your medication or living a healthy, happy life,” says Dr. Thompson. 

If you do have a fear of needles, you may experience physical symptoms of anxiety around needles, such as fainting, dizziness, nausea, increased blood pressure and a racing heart rate. Sometimes these symptoms intensify and lead to a panic attack. 

What causes the fear of needles? There is no known root cause, but there are a few factors that may contribute. These include: 

  • Past traumatic experiences associated with needles  
  • Having a family history of phobias 
  • Other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 
  • Other phobias related to germs or medical diagnoses, such as germaphobia or hypochondria  

So, how do you overcome this fear? The following tips may help:

Be honest about your fear

“Communication is key,” says Dr. Thompson. “Let your provider know right away that you have an intense fear of needles so they can help you.” This is important information to share, especially if you faint around needles. 

Practice to gain confidence 

Your provider will teach you how to administer your medication, and make sure you have everything you need before you must self-inject at home. Dr. Thompson says that practicing the injection can help you feel more confident. “With time and practice, you’ll gain confidence which will help you overcome your fear.” 

Calm your anxious mind 

Try to stay focused and positive. It helps to remember why you are doing this – in most cases, it’s for your health and happiness. Along with improving your mindset, a calming and stress-free environment can help ease your anxiety. Deep breathing will also help you settle and relax your nerves. 

Distract yourself 

You have an important task to see through, but there are ways you can distract your mind while self-injecting your medication. This may include listening to music or having a favorite show on in the background. 

Have a family member or friend help 

Although you will need to know how to self-inject your medication, you can have a caregiver, family member or friend learn to administer as well. “Having someone by your side can ease a lot of anxiety,” adds Dr. Thompson. “Ask your provider if someone else can be trained to support you.”  

Work with a therapist 

If your fear of needles is strong, you may benefit from therapy. Behavioral health treatment offers multiple coping strategies. A common method is exposure therapy, where you gradually face your fears in a safe, supportive environment. 

“It may take some time, but coping techniques can make it easier for you to self-inject confidently,” adds Dr. Thompson. 

More tips for managing your fear of needles:

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About the Author

Macaire Douglas
Macaire Douglas

Macaire Douglas, health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist and writer with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and previously worked as a content director for a lifestyle publication. In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening and keeping up on pop culture.