Get a grip on fear of syringes

Vaccinations or blood tests are a horror for many people. The thought of the needles or the sight of the blood triggers feelings of fear - and can even lead to fainting on the spot. What helps?

For some, the spiral of thought turns days before the appointment, others cramp at the sight of the needle: The fear of needles is widespread.

There are two types that have to be distinguished, as the psychotherapist Enno Maaß from Wittmund (Lower Saxony) explains: On the one hand, people who are afraid of seeing blood and injuries. "Despite the symptoms of anxiety, you often pass out for a short time when you inject or take blood samples."

Then there are those who are isolated and afraid of the syringe itself. This can be seen through typical anxiety symptoms such as tension, tremors and negative thoughts even before the appointment. What is behind these phobias and how can you counteract them?

Feelings of shame about fainting

In people who sometimes pass out, blood pressure and pulse rate rise sharply just before the needle is inserted. Then the vessels of the muscles suddenly relax. This causes the blood pressure to drop rapidly, causing too little blood in the head for a short time - and you lose consciousness.

In this phobia of blood injection injuries, the seizures, also known as vasovagal syncope, often lead to fear of the embarrassment of this situation and the associated feelings of shame, explains Maaß, who is also the deputy federal chairman of the German Association of Psychotherapists.

It can help those affected to discuss these concerns in confidence with the doctor beforehand. In addition, many do not know that even people without these pronounced fears sometimes faint when donating blood - this knowledge can also reduce the feeling of shame.

In practice, those affected can perform what is known as applied tension, before, during and after the injection. To do this, the muscles of the non-injected arm and legs are tensed in a pumping rhythm, according to Maaß. The blood pressure often does not drop so violently due to the muscle pressure on the vessels, so that there is no fainting.

Fear of injury

Those who are particularly afraid of the syringe often feel a diffuse discomfort. This could be due to fears that the syringe could injure you, for example your bones, or that air would be accidentally injected with you. "This is often shown in the conversations when you get to the bottom of the feeling of fear," says the psychotherapist.

Here, too, it can help to speak to the doctor and, for example, show you the cannula and then have an explanation of how the injection works and what the doctor is paying attention to.

Radiate calm and serenity

In general, the professionals who give the injection are important. You should be careful with people with such fears and explain calmly. It can also be reassuring when you make it clear that you have a lot of experience and calmness. "You should pick up the patients and take their fears seriously," says Maaß.

This is especially true for older people in nursing homes, who may no longer be able to grasp the situation as well: "The stronger the basis of trust and the more caring the preliminary talks," says Maaß, "the more likely you are to be ready also to confide in the situation and to overcome fears. "

However, distraction only helps to a limited extent. In the case of children who may not have rational fears but are primarily afraid of the possible pain, this may still be possible, says the expert. "But adults are often not that easily distracted."

Avoidance behavior can have serious consequences

Anyone who absolutely does not want to be injected and who does not benefit from talking to the doctor should think about psychotherapy. "This is often possible with a manageable amount of effort and good treatment results," says Maaß.

Because a phobia about injections can have serious health consequences - if you do not go to preventive examinations, never have blood drawn or avoid the dentist.