Top tips to beat the fear of needles ahead of a COVID-19 vaccine

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As the number of proposed COVID-19 vaccine options grow and plans for vaccination of the majority are put into place, we can all start to breathe a sigh of relief. That’s unless you have a considerable fear of needles and injections…

Google search trends shows searches for ‘fear of needles’ and "Trypanophobia" on the increase, specifically following the announcement of a vaccine, indicating many that suffer with the phobia are already starting to worry about the prospect of an injection.

Increasing fear of needles

A vaccine is essential for life to return to normal and to protect others, so how can those with a fear of needles manage the phobia and cope with having to have an injection over the next year?

Dr Jonas Nilsen, MD and co-founder of Practio offers these expert tips for managing the fear of needles:

“Overthinking the prospect of having an injection can be one of the biggest causes of anxiety ahead of a vaccination. As the appointment draws closer, ensure to keep busy to prevent feeling anxious. When getting the injection, you can ask to lie down and, if it helps, you can bring someone with you, who can hold your hand while you get the vaccine.”

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Symptoms

Depending on how extreme your phobia is, you may often experience:

  • nausea 

  • profuse sweating

  • increased breathing and heart rate

  • dry mouth

  • in some cases, fainting

How to prevent fainting 

If you have experienced fainting before, you can use the applied tension technique to prevent this from happening and regulate your blood pressure – people often practice this a few times a day ahead of an appointment. 

The technique works as follows: 

  1. sit comfortably

  2. tense your arm, upper body and leg muscles for around 15 seconds

  3. relax and sit comfortably for half a minute. 

  4. now repeat this exercise five times

Mindfulness meditation & Self-talk

To manage anxiety leading up to the injection and to prevent this manifesting and making the experience even more daunting, you could try practicing mindfulness techniques in the lead up for around 15 minutes per day, using apps like Calm or Headspace. YouTube also has lots of free meditation videos. Learning to clear your mind and control your breathing ahead of the vaccination will allow you to control the fear and anxiety on the day, taking your mind away from what is happening. 

Harley Street therapist Zoe Clews who specialises in PTSD, Trauma and Anxiety said: 

“Self-talk and the way we talk to ourselves is everything, so if you have a phobia that you want to overcome, talking to yourself in a supportive, self-parenting way is essential – a little like you would to a child that you were responsible for taking care of. Telling yourself that you are stupid for having this phobia is one of the worst things you can do – we need to soothe ourselves into feeling safe.”

Reframe the fear and add perspective

Hypnotherapist and self-help expert on phobias, Ailsa Frank said:

“Reduce the fear down in your mind so it is the size of a doll's house as this will make it more manageable in your mind. This is a useful technique used by hypnotherapists when helping people to overcome fears. 

“In order to add perspective, imagine it is a year from now and you are looking back with everything having worked out well. This will stop your mind falling into the immediate fear and also will train your mind to expect things to work out well. 

“You can also rub your hands together and tell yourself firmly ahead of the vaccination "I am fine. This is fine. I am safe." By taking control of your words you can direct yourself through an otherwise fearful situation, while rubbing your hands will create a skin contact to ground yourself.”

Distraction techniques

It’s likely that despite your fear you will opt-in to having a COVID-19 vaccination, so on the day of the jab, distraction techniques will be key to getting through the process. Being open and honest with whoever is administering the vaccination will relieve pressure and put the fear into the open and allow you to share the experience with someone else. Looking elsewhere and talking throughout the process will keep your mind distracted from what is happening while the vaccination is done, generally talking about mundane topics will help, or something that makes you happy and invokes the opposite of fear. 

Be kind to yourself

Zoe added: 

“Be kind to yourself - phobias are often seen by us and others as irrational, but realise that this is simply your subconscious mind trying to protect you from something that you experienced in the past - i.e. if you got stuck in a lift your subconscious mind will look to protect you from all future experiences of this so it creates 'claustrophobia' as protection mechanism. When others judge us we feel anxious, the same is true of ourselves - the more we judge ourselves harshly for having a phobia the worse it will become, be compassionate with yourself and remember it's there for a reason - it's just that the reason is its old.

“Be patient with yourself – overcoming a phobia – especially if it's been severe, can take a bit of time, you'll notice that as you 'recover' from it the 'volume goes down', with the right self support and/or professional support it really can become a thing of the past.”

Vaccine news

Before the coronavirus vaccine is ready it must go through a number of stages in development. Take a look at our coronavirus vaccine tracker for the latest news and results on vaccines in each stage.

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