Jul 132011

Are you so afraid of needles that you dread getting blood work done or trying acupuncture?

I decided about one year ago that I needed to overcome my aversion to needles!

I used to feel powerless and like a victim, when I would go to get blood work done. I would make a big deal to whomever was inserting the needle about how scared I was.

The strange thing is, even though the person drawing the blood would be extremely nice and understanding, the experience was always awful. I later found that slightly mean, efficient- looking blood drawers drew blood more painlessly and quickly. Could there be a connection?

Why We Stay Scared and Stuck

It turns out that whenever we’re afraid of something, we try to avoid it and that makes us even more afraid. When we avoid something, we reinforce the idea to ourselves that whatever we feel is really scary and MUST be avoided. And we get more and more scared…

How I Changed My Attitude

Here’s what I did:

First I made the decision that I wanted to meet this challenge and overcome this fear. I started walking in to get blood tests like it was no big deal, and like it was something I could handle.

How did I do that exactly?

Well even though I felt scared, I stopped making a big deal about how scared I was to the person drawing blood. I indicated that I was a little nervous and requested a butterfly needle (because I’ve been told they are smaller).  I tried to act with my body language and vibe like I could handle it, even though I felt nervous. And I stopped asking someone to come with me.

For me, this simply required a tweak in my attitude and behaviors. It’s not always that simple, though.

Therapy for Fear of Needles

If you’re struggling with this too and would like some more support, there is actually STRUCTURED THERAPY for this. There are programs you can participate in using formal exposure/response prevention to overcome this fear.

You can actually go to a therapist who specializes in this type of treatment. The therapy is not to talk about how you feel, but to actually desensitize yourself to the experience.

Ways to desensitize might include visualizing the experience, watching videos of getting blood drawn, or reading about it. The key is not to avoid it–the answer is to do the opposite of avoidance by RUNNING TOWARD the experience as much as possible!

This eventually decreases the fear response. At first it’s really scary and anxiety and fear may actually increase. But over time, the experience starts to feel boring after enough repetition and saturation. The final test at the end of this therapy is to confront needles in real life–by actually having blood drawn if that is your fear!


I can’t say that now I am completely comfortable with getting blood tests, because I still do experience some anxiety. The difference is that I’ve gotten better at not avoiding needles and feeling powerless (I used to find reasons to postpone blood tests for months). Now I know that I can handle it, even if it is uncomfortable–it’s MUCH less painful that way! Being afraid is not the problem–it’s how we react to fear that is.

As a side note, I’ve been studying self-esteem lately, and it turns out that a big part of having good self-esteem is feeling like you can meet the challenges of life head on. I know for me, it’s been liberating to know that I can deal with needles even though they still freak me out! A great self-esteem booster.

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