Trypanophobia (Fear of Needles)

Trypanophobia is the intense fear of needles. Specifically, people with trypanophobia fear needles in medical settings. They may avoid getting vaccines, blood draws or intravenous (IV) fluids. Although needle phobia is common, it can have severe consequences if it causes you to avoid or delay medical care. Treatment can help.


What is trypanophobia?

Trypanophobia (trih-PAN-o-foe-bee-uh) is the overwhelming, extreme fear of medical procedures that involve needles. It's closely related to phobias of needles, pins or sharp objects. But people with trypanophobia specifically fear needles in the medical setting.

Needle phobia is a type of specific phobia. Intense trypanophobia can interfere with your life. A severe fear may cause you to miss necessary doctor’s appointments or follow prescribed treatments.


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Who might get trypanophobia?

A few factors can increase your risk of developing trypanophobia. These include:

How common is trypanophobia?

Trypanophobia is most common in children. Some research shows that up to 2 in 3 children fear needles.

Many people grow out of trypanophobia, but many adults still fear needles. According to some reports, up to 16% of adults avoid getting vaccines because they're afraid of needles. Other studies show that up to 1 in 10 adults struggle with needle phobia.


Symptoms and Causes

What causes trypanophobia?

Experts don’t always identify a single cause of trypanophobia. Different people may be afraid of specific aspects of needles or injections. People may have:

  • Hypersensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia).
  • Fear of being restrained (merinthophobia), which may be triggered when receiving an injection.
  • Negative or traumatic memories triggered by seeing a needle.
  • Vasovagal reactions (passing out or situational syncope) at the sight or touch of a needle.

What are the symptoms of trypanophobia?

People with trypanophobia have intense anxiety at the sight or thought of a procedure involving a needle. Sometimes, this anxiety is so severe that it's debilitating. It may lead to a panic attack (a sudden wave of anxiety that causes physical symptoms).

Needle phobia may cause people to avoid or even run away from medical care. Other signs of trypanophobia may include:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is trypanophobia diagnosed?

Healthcare providers use the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Needle phobia is a type of specific phobic disorder, blood-injection-injury type, in the DSM. A provider may diagnose trypanophobia if you have intense fear or anxiety when you see a needle or need an injection.

Your provider may ask questions to assess the severity of your fear of needles. Your provider may want to know:

  • How long you've been afraid of needles.
  • What symptoms you experience when you see a needle.
  • How long your symptoms last.
  • If fearing needles interferes with your ability to get medical care.

Management and Treatment

How is trypanophobia treated?

There's no single way to treat trypanophobia. You may need to try multiple strategies to lessen trypanophobia symptoms. Your provider may recommend:

  • Exposure therapy involves slowly introducing the specific fear into your life. A therapist may show you pictures of a needle, have you stand near a needle, or ask you to hold one. Over time, the goal is to change your physical and mental response to seeing a needle.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), often called talk therapy, involves talking about the fear with a therapist. You learn new coping techniques and different ways to think about needles. CBT helps you have more control over symptoms.
  • Medication may be helpful if you still feel extreme stress around needles after going through therapy.

How can I overcome trypanophobia?

For many people, trypanophobia never goes away completely. You may learn to use coping strategies that lessen symptoms. You may:

  • Avoid watching the needle stick or looking at the needle itself.
  • Bring a support person, like a spouse, friend or family member, to medical appointments.
  • Distract yourself by wiggling your toes, looking intently at a pattern on the wall or chatting with someone during the needle stick.
  • Lie down before getting a needle stick, especially if you have fainted or felt dizzy in the past.
  • Practice deep-breathing techniques, such as counting to four on each inhale and exhale.
  • Relax the muscle where you're receiving an injection to decrease pain.
  • Request a numbing agent such as a freezing spray to numb your skin before the needle prick.
  • Tell the person giving you an injection or blood draw that you have a fear of needles.


Are there other conditions that put me at higher risk?

You may be more likely to develop needle phobia if you have another mental health diagnosis, such as:

Outlook / Prognosis

Are there long-term effects from trypanophobia?

Untreated trypanophobia can have severe consequences. The fear may cause you to delay or forego necessary medical care.

If you have a chronic health condition, avoiding medical care can significantly increase your risk of health complications. In medical emergencies, delaying or avoiding medical care can even lead to death.

With treatment, many people can manage trypanophobia symptoms. Therapy or medication may help decrease anxiety enough that you can receive medical treatment.

Living With

What should I ask my doctor?

You might want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What is the most likely cause of trypanophobia?
  • What can I do to relax before medical appointments?
  • What are the available treatments for trypanophobia?
  • Can I overcome trypanophobia?

Additional Common Questions

How do I know if I have trypanophobia?

If you feel extreme anxiety every time you see a needle or think about an injection, you may have trypanophobia. Often, people with this phobia have symptoms when they know they need to get an injection or blood draw. They may feel dizziness, nausea or heart palpitations.

Typically, needles are the only trigger for this fear. If you have extreme anxiety symptoms at other times, your symptoms may relate to another condition.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Trypanophobia is the extreme fear of needles. Specifically, people with this phobia feel afraid of getting injections or blood draws. Although trypanophobia is common, it can significantly interfere with your life. People with intense needle phobia may delay or avoid necessary medical care. With treatment, you can learn to manage anxiety symptoms so that you experience fewer disruptions to your life.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/12/2022.

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