Needle Phobia – Overcoming Fear of Needles


Studies suggest needle phobia affects up to 10% of the general population

For many people with diabetes, injections are simply a necessary part of life. Yet for many, both newly diagnosed and those who have been managing the condition for many years, the injection process can be very distressing.

But what turns a plain dislike of injections into a phobia? Well, a phobia is an irrational fear of a particular situation, which is exaggerated and cannot usually be explained away.

Dislike of needles

A small degree of dislike of needles is perfectly normal – most people would avoid them if they possibly could. But this fear is heightened in people with needle phobia, to the point where they cannot bear the thought of injections.

Needle phobia is common in the general population – some studies suggest the rate of occurrence is as high as 10%. When you consider that only 7% of the population have diabetes, it is evident that there are many people with diabetes out there having to contend with both!

Symptoms of needle phobia

The symptoms of needle phobia can vary greatly from one individual to another. The main feature is anxietyat the thought of injections, leading to avoidance of injections.

This may be associated with:

  • feeling dizzy and light-headed
  • a dry mouth
  • palpitations
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • over-breathing
  • feeling sick
  • even fainting

Why does it occur?

Although it can be difficult to be entirely sure what causes a phobia, the most common causes are thought to be:

  • An upsetting experience of needles when young, for example, a painful procedure at the hospital or at the dentist
  • A fear that has been ‘modelled’ by an adult close to the child, either through actual observation of their fear, or being told a story that implied injections and needles were very painful.
  • There is also evolutionary value to a fear of needles. In the past, an individual with a fear of being stuck with a thorn or a knife was less likely to die in accidents or in encounters with hostile animals or other humans.
  • Prior to the 20th century, even an otherwise non-fatal puncture wound had a reasonable chance of causing a fatal infection.
  • So a trait that had positive survival value prior to the 20th century now has the opposite effect as it means people struggle to engage in valuable healthcare regimes.