Who wants to get poked and prodded with needles? In reality, not many people actually enjoy getting a shot in the arm. However, many people are currently finding themselves in a dilemma. On one hand, they fear finding themselves infected by covid-19, or worse, a new more infectious strain. On the other hand, they must face their, often longstanding, fear of needles. In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, journalist Sam-Omar Hall discussed fear of needles and how to over come it.
Fear of needles and vaccines are widespread problems. One in four adults in the United States feels some fear of needles, according to Hall. Furthermore, the World Health Organization listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top ten global health threats.
Hall noted that fear of needles is often tied to childhood trauma. For example some have needed to endure frequent painful shots due to a childhood illness. A trauma such as this can lead to lifelong aversions to needles.
What can you do to help yourself today?
Hall interviewed Dr. Anna Taddio, a pharmacist and researcher, whose work focuses on reducing anxiety and pain during medical procedures. Dr Taddio developed what she calls the CARD system (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract).
Dr. Taddio recommended finding ways to comfort yourself. For example, you can listen to your favorite music or schedule your appointments at the same time as a trusted friend and go together.
Dr. Taddio recommends asking for relevant information or asking others about their experience getting the vaccine, as this could be a source of comfort.
Deep belly breaths are a helpful technique to do as you wait in the lobby for your turn to get vaccinated.
Talking to the pharmacist, reading the nearby posters, or listening to music with your earphones can all be helpful distractions to prevent you from hyper-focusing on the needle, according to Dr. Taddio.
What if you have phobia or intense fear of needles?
Hall noted that the Dr. Taddio’s CARD system would not work in the case of intense anxiety. If someone is dealing with a phobia, they will likely need to address the core fear with exposure therapy.
Check back in next week when we discuss exposure therapy for needles in the next article. If you are interested in discussing if exposure therapy is right for you, then schedule a free phone consultation.
Dr. Jason von Stietz specializes in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Sport/Performance Psychology in Torrance, CA. He provides online therapy (telehealth) by way of the Torrance office and is available for a free initial phone consultation. Dr. von Stietz works with individuals from Long Beach, the greater Los Angeles area, and the South Bay including Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and all over California.