How to overcome fear of needles

Many years ago when I was doing my Paramedic training I discovered how people created their fear of needles and I’m going to explain how you too can also overcome your fear of needles. Even back then before I had learnt about how NLP and hypnosis can help you feel calmer about needles and injections I got interested in the differences between the people that were anxious and the people that feel calmer.

I was fascinated by learning as much as possible and one of the things that I noticed was how a surprising large number of people would unnecessarily put themselves through stress and suffering before anything had actually started. Now I am not talking about people who were already in pain, this was with people who were about to have an injection or some other straight forward simple procedure. Now as a child, like most children, I didn’t like injections either and obviously they’re not something that your supposed to like and in fact liking them would be stranger than not liking them. However there is a big difference between being scared of needles and feeling ok about them and many people are able to feel calm about having an injection. And so the curiosity started about how people can feel calmer about needles.

In many cases the pain associated with the thought of having injection isn’t actually caused by the needle as so many people with fear of needles have understandably but mistakenly thought. In reality most of it is caused by the tension, stress and fear that they have induced in themselves. Think about it, many people have experienced the fear of the pain in their mind before even getting to the doctors! And in over 90% of cases their amplified expectations of the fear are far worse than the actual reality of what it would be like having an injection while feeling calmer. Now I know some people may find that hard to imagine at the moment, but probably part of the reason why they are afraid is because every time they thought about needles it was framed around the notion of them being afraid.

The thing that was glaringly obvious was that not only do these two groups of people feel differently during the injection they also have a different experience in regards to the whole lead up to the injection and also afterwards. I starting thinking about how I can help the people who are scared & anxious to feel more relaxed and calmer just like the people who are able to take injections in their stride. I asked myself the question “As the doctors are teaching me the skills I need to be a Paramedic what skills does the patient need to have in order to to help them feel calmer both before and during an injection?”

I started asking people questions and listened very carefully not only to their answers, I also noticed what they didn’t say. In fact the majority of people that feel calmer and relaxed didn’t talk about it scary terms at all, it was as though the thought of being scared didn’t even occur to them! I then started paying very close attention to what they were doing in terms of whether their attention was focused externally on what was going on around them or internally with them lost in their own thoughts. And you know what, not only did it become obvious, the answer is also simple. But then when you stop and think about it that’s usually the case isn’t it because the most effective and best solutions are more often than not also the simplest! So I got the people who were scared by needles to adopt the same approach as the people who feel more relaxed and amazingly with a small amount of effort most of them were also able to put their fear of needles into perspective and feel significantly calmer. Here’s the outline of what I got them to do

Step 1. 

First just notice, when does your fear start? For large majority of people the fear starts before the injection / blood test has begun. Now at first this may sound strange but hear me out. The fact that the fear starts before the injection is a good sign because it actually means that its not the injection that was scaring you. It’s your expectations of what’s going to happen that was scaring you. And because of this you can regain control over how you feel.

Step 2. 

Pay attention to how you are thinking about what you imagine is going to happen. We all have thoughts constantly through out the day but have you ever taken the time to notice how you think about things? Are you picturing what you imagine is going to happen? If it is a picture are you watching yourself there or seeing what you’d see through your own eyes in the experience? Are you thinking through the experience in terms of how you imagine it’s going to feel? Are your thoughts telling yourself that it’s going to be painful or that you are going to respond in a certain way?

Step 3.

If you were looking at an image the first thing to do is to disassociate with it, or in other words step out of the movie. So instead of being in the experience you are watching a movie of yourself in that experience. Put a boarder or a frame around the image so you make it clear to your mind that you are watching a movie or what’s happening. Now inside your minds eye, shrink the movie down in size and push it further away from you so the movie and it’s contents look smaller and more distant. Drain a lot of the detail out of the movie and make the images look more and more faded as you look at it. As the detail drains out of the movie so your just left with a vague outline of what was there notice what has also happened to the feelings that were associated with the movie? Have they reduced and faded with the movie or just stopped?

Step 4.

If your thoughts (internal dialogue) were telling you that your going to be scared did you ever take the time to notice whether they sounded calmer and relaxed, anxious or scared. Almost invariably people who feel afraid have an anxious or scared sounding internal dialogue running inside their minds. Well if it is running inside your head that means you can have control over what you think to yourself and what it sounds like. How different would you feel if  your internal dialogue either had a ridiculous sounding tonality like Mickey Mouse or sounded really slow and very calm? Try it out and find out for yourself.

Step 5.

It’s not enough to just reduce the old feelings of anxiety, your brain has to be given something more useful to focus on. You could of course start by picturing yourself in your minds eye looking calmer and more relaxed about the idea of having an injection. However I want you go out further into the future and picture yourself looking back with hindsight at the fear of needles you had in past. Have you ever wondered what it is going to feel like once you have gotten to this point in time looking back at that old fear you had in the past?

So when you think about the last time you felt scared at the thought of having an injection were you running scary scenarios inside your minds eye or becoming rigid with fear because of how you imagined it was going to be? For many people the fear was because of how you thought you were going to react in that situation. How would things be different if you knew you’re going to feel calmer?

Although these simple things do work for a large number of people of course there are some people where I have to do things differently to help them feel calmer and more relaxed. So the question to ask yourself is not whether you can feel calmer and relaxed about needles but how do you need to think about it to feel calmer and more relaxed.

Paul Wright

The page on needle phobia on the main site is here – Phobia Of Needles

2 thoughts on “How to overcome fear of needles

  1. Steve Tromans

    Paul works in the same office as me in Harley Street London. For years now I have referred to Paul most of the people who have asked me for help with a phobia. I am really comfortable with this, Paul has vast experience of working with phobias.

    Reply

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