It is rare to find an individual who actually enjoys getting his or her annual flu shot, but there is a significant segment of the population whose phobia of injections is so severe it prevents them from seeking medical care altogether.
Trypanophobia, fear of needles, also known as needle phobia, is the extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It is a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognized phobia affecting approximately 50 million Americans, making it a top-ten American fear.1 People who suffer from this at times debilitating condition can experience symptoms including hypertension, rapid heart rate or heart palpitations and even fainting or loss of consciousness.2 These physical manifestations of the phobia can also trigger feelings of anxiety and hostility toward the medical community as a whole.
Not only are the symptoms themselves harmful to the individual’s health, but the fear associated with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can and often does prevent people from seeking treatment for any number of serious ailments. Of those suffering from needle phobia, it has been reported that at least 20 percent avoid any medical treatment as a result.1 In fact, in a 2012 survey conducted by Target and Harris Interactive, out of the 60 percent of American adults who choose not to receive a flu vaccination, 23 percent stated the reason is a fear of needles. 3
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year as much as 20% of Americans fall victim to influenza and flu-related complications, resulting in approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths. 4 However, even in the face of such overwhelming statistics, sufferers of needle phobia will abstain from the flu vaccination.
Some cases of injection phobia are so extreme that even when directly faced with the prospect of death, certain phobics will continue to avoid treatment. This has led to thousands of unnecessary deaths – a statistic rarely associated with a phobia.5
Another reason why the trypanophobic is mistrusting of medical professionals is that the condition has long been dismissed by doctors — patients are encouraged to “just get over it.” For years, the fear of needles was considered simply an emotional response to a childhood fear rather than a serious illness.2 In actuality, the condition can be due to a variety of factors including genetic inheritance. Fear of sharp objects and puncture wounds could have easily developed as a survival instinct prior to the emergence of modern medicine.5
Regardless of the origin or cause, needle phobia clearly presents a problem for both the medical profession and lay population. Doctors often fail to acknowledge the gravity of the condition, which further alienates those suffering from the phobia.
As pharmaceutical technology has evolved to offer alternative delivery methods, the needle phobic are now able to receive certain treatments in less invasive ways. The increased awareness of the fear from patients has inspired companies like PharmaJet to manufacture needle-free injections. Hopefully these advances will enable these individuals to seek the much-needed medical treatment everyone should be able to freely access.
- “Needle phobia facts.” Big Shots Get Shots. Healthline, n.d. Web.
- “Needle phobia.” Healthcentral.com. HealthCentral, n.d. Web.
- Target Corp. Target Survey Shows Adult Americans May Avoid the Flu Shot Due to Fear of Needles. BusinessWire.com. BusinessWire, 14 Aug. 2012. Web.
- “Seasonal Influenza.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Sept. 2013. Web.
- Emanuelson, Jerry. “A starting point for overcoming an important, but often ignored condition.” The Needle Phobia Page. N.p., 1997. Web.