How patients can overcome needle phobia and get the COVID vaccine

needle phobia
© Leigh Prather

Dr Deborah Lee, Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, explores what can be done to help patients who refuse the COVID-19 vaccination due to needle phobia

I remember seeing a young male patient in a Sexual Health Clinic some years ago. I just casually mentioned he might need a blood test and the next thing I knew he was flat out on the floor! I hadn’t even shown him a syringe or a needle – the mere mention of the possible need for a blood test was enough for him to spark out!

This is true ‘needle phobia’ – an extreme fear of needles, which cannot be overcome by rational explanation, and is so serious that it stops patients from having the tests and the treatments they need.

At the present time, we are trying to vaccinate the whole country against COVID-19, and those with needle phobia will be at a great disadvantage. Even hearing regular news broadcasts about the need for vaccination will induce fear and panic.

Needle phobics are a group likely to refuse the COVID vaccination, which after all, involves not just one jab, but two.

What can be done to help needle phobics at this crucial time? 

What is needle phobia?

Needle phobia has a proper medical name – trypanophobia. It’s a recognised psychiatric condition, where an irrational fear of being pricked by a needle induces severe feelings of dread and anxiety.

Even the thought of an impending procedure which requires venepuncture, induces an acute anxiety response, or a panic attack – a rapid heart rate, faster breathing, sweating, and a drop in blood pressure. The result, not infrequently, is a syncopal episode – fainting and collapse.

Sufferers may fear a vasovagal fainting episode such as they have had in the past, even more than the needle procedure itself.

Those with needle phobia can also develop a fear of being controlled and can become aggressive when challenged. When we hear people arguing against the vaccine, I wonder how many of them are needle phobics.

How common is needle phobia?

Between 3-10% of UK adults suffer from needle phobia (Anxiety UK). Needle phobia is most commonly seen in children but often continues into adulthood. A 2018 meta-analysis, which included 119 research studies, reported needle phobia in almost all children, 20-50% of adolescents, and 20-30% of young people.

Why does needle phobia matter?

Having a fear of needles can have serious, negative, health consequences.

Being needle phobic can deter someone from having blood tests, accepting a blood transfusion, becoming a blood donor, having urgent surgery, or accepting a range of healthcare options including vaccinations, contraceptive injections, and implants. Insulin dependant diabetics have considerable difficulty if they suffer from needle phobia.

5-15% of the population avoid the dentist due to fear of needing a dental injection. A fear of needles can also affect education, the ability to travel, pregnancy outcome and can result in legal issues.

Overall, 16% of adults refuse flu injections because of needle phobia. 27% of hospital employees, 18% of those working in long term care institutions and 8% of healthcare workers, refuse a flu vaccination due to needle phobia.

Why do some people develop needle phobia?

The cause of needle phobia may never be discovered. However, 80% of those affected have a first-degree relative who suffers from the same condition. It may be this is a learned response.

Sometimes, needle phobia may develop following a long period of illness such as treatment for childhood cancer, or witnessing a close relative go through a protracted period of medical care.

There may be genetic differences in people’s perception of pain, meaning some experience far more pain than others being pricked by a needle. Interestingly, needle phobia is more common in monozygotic than in dizygotic twins.

Some have suggested the fear of needles is a primitive response which evolved to help people avoid injuries such as stab wounds, which would have been fatal. 

What to do about needle phobia?

Healthcare professionals need to realise the importance of needle phobia. It can be frustrating in a busy clinic to find a patient with needle phobia. However, this needs to be treated with patience and kindness. Let’s remember that pain management is a human right.

Now, amid the COVID-29 pandemic, is a perfect time to address this problem, help patients overcome their fears, and improve their opportunities for healthcare in the future.

  1. Explain the ‘fight, fright, and flight’ mechanism of anxiety. This is a normal physiological response. However, the patient can learn to control it.
  2. Teach the patient how to perform diaphragmatic breathing. They can be doing this at home before their venepuncture appointment, outside in the waiting room, and even during the procedure.
  3. We can all learn to control our thoughts and emotions. For example, fix your gaze on an object in the room and study it carefully. Focus on that object and don’t allow your mind to wander.
  4. Think positive thoughts … ‘I can do this … I will do this …’ not negative thoughts.

Patients can be referred to the Psychology Team for further help. The technique employed is often to break the process of venepunctures into a series of small steps –

  1. Look at a needle.
  2. Hold a needle in your hand.
  3. Inject an orange with water.
  4. Watch someone having an injection on TV.
  5. Watch another person having an injection.
  6. Have an injection.

(Mood Café 2015)

Managing needle phobia

Patients should be referred to their GP for further help. They may be offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is very effective. Patients can even self-refer for NHS talking therapies.

Managing anxiety sometimes requires anti-anxiety medication – beta-blockers, serotonin or noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s, SNRI’s), benzodiazepines, or pregabalin.

In the short term, if venepuncture is needed, the patient may benefit from the use of Emla cream which can be applied one hour before the procedure. Some may need a single dose of diazepam.

There are a variety of free – NHS apps available for anxiety.

Final thoughts

Needle phobia is a serious condition which deserves attention. By recognising this, and helping patients receive appropriate help, we can help improve their health care and life choices, now and in the future. If patients are refusing the COVID-19 vaccination due to needle phobia, now is the time to take action.

Overcoming needle phobia is vital for a fully successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

For more information


  1. Just had my 1st shot. I have a serious fear of needles. Told that to the doctor, she asked me to lay down instead of sitting down. The shot literally felt like somebody’s lightly touching me with their tiny finger. Not even a small pinch. No need to worry, if that’s why you don’t want to get it.

    • You have really no idea what its like to be 100% fearful of needles!!!! You all can keep saying “oh it doesn’t hurt or I didn’t feel a thing.” YOU DONT GET IT. The fear comes way before the actual needle. I have avoided medical lab work (which I do need) for the last 10 years because of my needle phobia. I am really tired of articles telling people and doctors how to simply overcome their fear of needles. IT IS MUCH MORE COMPLEX AND MUCH DEEPER THAN PEOPLE COULD EVER IMAGINE OR REALIZE. Starting to think I need to become the voice of needle phobics everywhere.

      • I totally agree and it’s refreshing to hear of someone who experiences exactly the same fear as my husband. As he works in social care and our fantastic government have decided to make it compulsory to have the vaccine he is now in a dreadful state. He fluctuates from feeling angry as he fears losing his job to suicidal. He has talked about drinking a bottle of Absinthe then having the vaccine but I don’t think that’s the answer. We don’t know which way to turn. His boss is doing his best to find a solution and my husband is currently working at home. His GP was most unhelpful

      • Heather said it very well. The problem is the mix up between a fear and a phobia, we often get those like the thread starter her saying they are phobic and how simple methods such as laying down or holding the hand of a friend helped them get the needle procedure they needed, and that is great for them but what they have is a fear, not a phobia.

        I have needle phobia I feel panic just thinking about getting a needle procedure and we are talking I would not be able to sit still for it. The last time I got my blood drawn my reaction sent the nurse into theraphy. I will scream, cry, faint or even have siezures due to stress. This is not something that can be overcome just by thinking oh but it will not hurt.

        The thing is for most who have needle phobia unless it is type C where a person is afraid because they are more pain sensitive, the pain is not the most problematic thing, and pain can be managed, if it is just pain that is the problem then there are numbing creams but needle phobia induce complete panic.

        To try to illustrate the difference. I have a fear of heights, this is not a phobia. Now I have zero itnerest in going bungee jumping or anything of the sort and I feel pretty nervous walking over high bridges if I have to walk close to the railing, but it is not like it stops me walking over those bridges, it do not affect the way I live my life I just do not like heights. This is a fear and nto a phobia. A phobia is a uncontrollable dread of a thing where you can not bring yourself to meet what you are afraid of and if you anyway do force yourself to do so it cause extreme stress and often deep trauma, this need to be taken seriously, fear is not the same as a phobia.

  2. My wife and I are CNHC-registered hypnotherapists. We are currently offering hypnotherapy for needle phobia free of charge. This is a simple one-stop session with which we have had a 100% success rate. We would be happy to discuss how we work with anyone for whom needles are a problem.

  3. I suffer from this severely, as a 22 year old I was almost certainly going to avoid getting the vaccine, or at the very least wait until a single dose is approved for use in the UK so I only have to go through it once, there’s a very horrible and hostile attitude towards people who don’t want the vaccine at the moment which I’m worried about and talk of domestic vaccine passports also worries me, I don’t think people who don’t suffer from trypanophobia have any idea how difficult this is for sufferers,.

    • People really don’t understand. I went for my covid jab this morning at the Hospital. The staff were lovely, they had arranged for entonox to be administered in order to help me relax. I still couldn’t go through with it. You feel so foolish afterwards but I was heartbroken when I got home. I had a terrible experience when I was about 14 when I was physically held down and forced to have an injection. That’s what is in my head when I go for a jab. I know it doesn’t hurt and that everything will be fine, but trypanophobia overrides rationality. I could probably inject myself, it’s just someone else doing it.

      • Agree with you 100% they need to come up with something other than needles for people like us they know it is a big problem they just do not understand the fear

      • This story hits so close to home. The feeling of defeat after you freak out is just as bad, if not worse than the panic you feel during the event.
        I have said so many times I think I could do this myself if they would let me do it myself.
        The most annoying thing people can say is “It doesent hurt” I am not concerned about the pain at all.

      • Your experience as a child sounds very traumatic. I’m so sorry that happened to you. My brother had a similar experience as a child and through him I have developed the same phobia. To overcome it, I was told that when you go in to have the injection you say to the nurse that they cannot give you the injection until you ask them to do it and only after you’ve given them permission, to do it on the word ‘now’. It can be done very politely but it’s just that this way, you are given complete control back. It may sound silly but it’s worked for me and him. Have you ever tried that?

        Big congratulations to you for trying! You deserve massive credit for that and you’re definitely not foolish.

      • I too have a phobia that was made far, far worse by a medical team trying to force me to have a vaccination (Rubella) when I was 14. I get pretty fed up with unhelpful comments from friends such as ‘it doesn’t hurt’ – I’m not frightened of the pain, I’m frightened of the needle and the association in my mind of a medical professional physically trying to force me to do something without my consent.

        I’m desperate to have the vaccine but have tried every technique/therapy out there with no luck. I’m just going to have to wait for the oral/nasal version and continue to try to explain that I am not an anti-vaxxer.

      • Please tell me which hospital this was where you were offered laughing gas! I need to get one and have phobia…and it doesn’t seem that any place around me offers entonox/laughing gas. Thank you

      • I’m another who will not let a needle near me. Tried the phycologist and after a few sessions was told I will not overcome my fear and I need to find an alterative to needles. Tried prescription drugs to relieve anxiety but they just took away what control I had resulting in me telling the male nurse he was going out the window if he tried to put a needle in me instead of my normal sorry I can’t go though with this response to the needle. Last needle put in me when I was awake was basic training about 46 years ago and that needle for a blood test snapped luckily they had enough for what they needed by that time. When I did have to have an operation back in 1999 they had to knock me out with gas before I went into pre-op and keep me under until I was being rolled out the door to go home.. I would never have had the operation and would probably be dead if it were not for an insistent wife/doctor who convinced them to gas me right there in the hallway. For the dentist I go to one who uses the pills that make me sleep right though the procedure, I know that sounds ridiculous to expect for a COVI D shot but I think that is the only way I will be able to get one. You would think there would be a similar pill to what the dentist uses that could just knock a person out for 10 min while the shot is administered.. Although with all of us out here you would think they would invest money into a patch that allows the vaccine to be absorbed through the skin , or something similar.

    • I know exactly how you feel . I have the same condition and I have severe anxiety, despite being told by most people who have had it that it doesn’t hurt. I’ve had many injections but I think it’s the going on my own and the second jab after that. I think we’ll be OK. Be strong. Look away, it’ll be over in seconds.. You’ll be proud of yourself afterwards. Get the Emla cream. I did for a blood test and you don’t really feel it. But I feel for you. Good luck. Xx

  4. Very much agree with MH above. This is keeping me awake at night, and now ruining my life. I’ve tried to overcome this even with using sewing needles (sterilized) to see if I can get accustomed at least, no chance at all. I can hardly bring myself to break the skin. And if your successful with that even, it’s apparently only around 30% of the real thing. People like us are not anti-vaxers, if this were a nasal spray or pill I’d be at the front of the queue. Feels like we have no help, nobody to even talk to and it’s hell.

    • I have the phobia and for years have denied myself the Flu vaccine. I plucked up the courage and went for it as my Cousin’s healthy husband (52) died last month from COVID, this resonated that we MUST be protected.
      I attended the vaccination centre and informed the Nurse of my phobia, I was taken to another area to lie down and as she rubbed the area to clean it, she advised me to take a few deep breaths to relax, I closed my eyes and asked her not to tell me when she was injecting me; wow! no pain whatsoever, the needle is so thin and you don’t feel the liquid going in; totally different to a sewing needle as these are not designed to pierce human skin!
      Please attend and have the vaccination, it has helped me get over my phobia of 30years!
      I honestly have no anxiety attending for my 2nd and final dose.
      Good Luck, you can do it!!

    • Hey LE, just so you know, there is a HUGE difference between hypodermic needles and sewing needles. The former is made specially for cutting through the skin swiftly and in an extremelly small point when compared to a sewing needle. You probably already know how even the tip looks different, a sewing needle is extremely dull and blunt and accidents where you prick yourself with one tend to hurt because of that very reason. Like if you ever pricked yourself with a paper staple before, it hurts because it waw wasn’t to break human skin.

  5. I have had needle phobia for years…..tried hypnotherapy years ago…it helped at the time but i still fear needles or procedures….now wondering how I will cope in the last days of my life,,,,^.^

  6. Its embarrasing. Its hard to explain the feeling to people and they dont understand. For me its the impending puncture, the lead up, knowing its coming. Had to pull out of a meds review blood test recently whilst sat in the nurses chair as i had a panic attack. Felt so stupid. Hate myself, but just cant help it. I have had my vaccine invite and not taken it up. Awful.
    Any hypnotherapy help appreciated, anything worth a try to be freed from these chains.


    • Hello Glenn
      I think its really helpful that you are aware of which aspects make you anxious or frighten you.
      Unfortunately in my experience I had found that those working in the medical sector make assumptions about what I am scared of. I have repeatedly tried to explain my own experience and with different levels of success. I find it very wearing doing this as so often my message fails to get through to them. I don’t know if it helps you but please don’t believe that you are the only person struggling with this.

  7. I am a qualified NCH and CNHC-registered hypnotherapist working online. I offer a very gentle but effective technique whereby we break the phobia down into manageable steps and work through them using hypnosis. I have had a lot of success with many different phobias. I offer a free initial consultation so please just come and have a chat about how I can help. You really don’t have to suffer.

  8. I had my Covid vaccine yesterday & I can honesty say it didn’t hurt at all I feel silly now I made such a fuss before having it, I’m needle phobic & had my letter on Friday to say I could have it I was crying, I chucked the letter in the floor got myself in such a state but then remembered my Nan was scared of being locked in anywhere & gif whrse as she got older she was recommended rescue remedy & it helped her relax so I thought right I’m trying it, it says take 3 drops under your tongue I did nothing, took another 3 nothing took 3 more felt very relaxed. I then rang the doctor to say I can’t have it done as I’m needle phobic but as I’m a carer & have teenage kids I want it but just too scared to have it. She prescribed me diazepam & cream for my arm to numb it, just by talking to her & knowing I could have something I felt so much better. Anyway I still didn’t book it as I was only offered the jab in big places not near to where I live, luckily yesterday morning my doctors texted me with an offer of it at my doctors surgery & there was a space available 3 hours later, I got brave & went for it, the cream I put in the wrong place on my arm so they didn’t even do it there but didn’t tell me till after & the diazepam I was a bit worried to take as ive never been offered it before, I was scared I’d be a zombie or tired but no nothing it just helped me relax enough to have the jab, I told the nurses & doctors I was scared they distracted me & they done it without telling me, I didn’t feel anything only a slight touch no scratch nothing I couldn’t believe it. I’d love hypnotherapy please as I’m such a worrier when it comes to needles, I haven’t had my flu jab & im due to have a blood test but couldn’t face it, hopefully either with hydrotherapy or diazepam I will get through!

    • Hi Hannah,

      Please get in touch and we can arrange a free consultation online. You really don’t need Diazepam when you can just rewire your brain a little with some hypnosis and feel naturally relaxed and calm when having any sort of injection or blood test. It is a much better way to deal with anxiety rather than relying on drugs. I only wish the NHS would offer hypnotherapy! Maybe one day…

      • I have tried hypnotherapy a number of times during life long struggle with needle phobia but found that I could not be hypnotized. Thing that got me through my first blood test (way more scary than a shot) was Diazepam, this stopped getting anywhere near the Vasovagal syncope (fainting) problem and generally keeps you calm enough to cope with the whole thing. A doctor once warned me that fainting can be dangerous and they would rather not put people in that position,
        So successful was Diazepam that I now don’t get anxious before a procedure, in fact I am writing this on the evening before my vaccine shot and have no anxiety whatsoever!
        Please don’t discourage use of Diazepam as for me, this was the miracle cure to a condition that has caused me in the past to forgo blood tests and further medical help.

        • agreed Simon. Different solutions for different people, we are not all made the same. I do think you should try the other (non-drug) methods first, but the use of Rx drugs to get you past certain blocking points should be fine, just do NOT become dependent on the stuff, it’s not meant to take for duration, more like situational events ( i.e. needle in arm)

  9. I have a pain syndrome which means if a needle touches my skin i will an induced flare up where the pain causes not just nausea but vomiting and my hands go into spasms and fists and the only way to release them is to break my fingers. The only thing my GP can offer in the way of advice well covid19 might be worse help

  10. I had astra zenica jab yesterday, there’s nothing to it , not even 5 minutes and you are in and out. I just need one more astra zenica jab. Then I am done.

  11. I am James Hamilton, M.D. & I wrote the original paper that defined needle phobia (“Needle Phobia: A Neglected Diagnosis,” Journal of Family Practice, 1995). I strongly recommend that anyone with needle phobia read this paper and share a copy with your doctor and all others involved with your health care since it could be life-saving. Also helpful is “A Case Report of Needle Phobia” in the same journal in 1991 which reports my own needle phobia.

    I thank you for your relevant advice here. Let me mention that the only correct name for this condition is “needle phobia” —- I prefer a name that is easy to remember. It is basically genetic, but can be modified by experience. While hypnosis and psychotherapy have variable influence, an ice pack x 15 minutes, perhaps with EMLA, a benzodiazepine, nitrous gas and/or Benadryl or other soporific, can be very effective. The commercial nerve-blocking devices called Buzzy or the ShotBlocker help 50-80% of patients.

    I hope that these comments are helpful for those with this serious impediment to healthcare. Anyone with questions is welcome to email me at

  12. 1. Please stop calling it “the jab” because that doesn’t help me. Neither does having photos of needles on web pages for needle phobia!
    2. People who have a phobia with the same name cannot be assumed to have the same fears and need exactly the same approach
    3. My GPs surgery have told me my turn is coming up so I told them I am needle phobic and the response I got was surprise and how they hadnt had anyone say that. I am struggling to find guidance for getting support. I remember the mass school vaccination programs from being a child and it terrifies me to do it that way again.
    4. It isn’t like I don’t understand that t is a very good idea for as many as possible to be vaccinated but with a significant proportion of the population being needle phobic I had hoped there would be more support and for communication on how to accesss it.
    I am incredibly anxious about this
    5. Talkof them drafting in volunteers to do this is even more scary. Training someone on an orange isnt going to be that helpful when you consider the holistic patient. We arent just inanimate unemotional lumps of meat

  13. Hi all, I’ve always been afraid of needles and having blood tests as a child. In 2015 I went to A&E with my boyfriend and watched him have a injection in his toe. About 30 seconds later I felt the need to RUN and then about 3 steps later I hit the deck, completely knocked myself out cold. I could hear music and a warm fuzzy feeling and then came around with nurses picking me up. Ended up in the bed next to him lol. At the time I found it funny but then days, weeks months later it was affecting my every day life. I was PETRIFIED of passing out again, so I would avoid most social situations just incase needles would come up in a conversation (even though it would be unlikely someone would talk about that non covid times) it caused panic attacks and constant day to day fear. After about a year of this, I finally plucked up the courage to speak to someone because it getting worse by the day. (So much so I nearly quit my coffee job day 1 because they had temperature thermometers and they looked somewhat similar) I did cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy. I went from.not even being able to.say the word, to not even looking at a cartoon image, all the way up to holding one. The way I avoided fainting was something my therapist referred to as ‘Applied tension technique’ where you increase your blood pressure to avoid fainting. That’s what scientifically stopped me from passing out in session. I would highly recommend using this technique, practice day by day, little by little and you’ll be able to do this. I got my Vaccination letter through last week and its been on my mind, truth be told I’m petrified but the anxiety 2020/2021 has caused me with Covid has been awful so for the 10 seconds this will take its worth it for me.

  14. I’m absolutely terrified and just turned down the vaccine, if it was a one off I may just have managed with support of partner to muster up the courage to go, but its 2 and its annual and I can’t face it. I’ve been in complete meltdown since I got my text message, then doctor called and now a letter. I just want to be left alone

  15. The fact that the vaccination is at a mass centre – no chance of getting it done in private was a big problem for me. My GP was not particularly sympathetic and refused to give me diazepam. So I took Valerian Plus which seemed to help. I cried at reception but they were very kind and the vaccinator was great. Didn’t feel the needle and was in and out of the centre in 5 minutes. I do wish there was more understanding of needle phobia though.

    • I’m with you on that. People just don’t get it. I said it’s not about pain. Don’t try to rationalize an irrational fear it doesn’t work. I am 69 years old I’ve been called a baby I’ve been told to suck it up and it’s just not going to happen. I have managed to be able to get an IV get blood work but I cannot get past somebody sticking a piece of steel into the middle of my muscle I just can’t do it. When I have the other procedures I usually have a lorazepam which calms me down and the doctor is always willing to give me one. I don’t think that would help in this particular instance. I’m getting a lot of flak but I can’t do it I just can’t do it

  16. I am so glad I found this page as I haven’t heard anything on the media about people who have needle phobia and having the Covid vaccine. I usually faint for anything needle related. It’s nothing to do with pain – I can cope with that – it’s just the thought but people don’t seem to understand this. Even lying down doesn’t always help as when I get up I often faint – a delayed reaction. I too dread the idea of going to a mass vaccination centre with no privacy so I’m going to wait for my surgery to offer it to me at a Saturday clinic as I believe they will still offer this and if I pass out at least it will be in private. A couple of years ago I had to have an operation which involved blood tests beforehand. Naturally I was dreading these but I had a go at self hypnosis/meditation and it seemed to work as I had 3 blood tests without fainting but did faint when they put a cannula in my arm. I have also heard about the applied tension technique so will give that a go. Interestingly I have never had a problem with injections at the dentist.

  17. I’m also so glad I came across this as I thought I was the only one! Everything resonates completely with me, though in my case I seem to be able to give blood and don’t mind blood tests that much – but it’s the feeling of something being injected, rather than the needle, that seems to set me off. The whole thing terrifies me – and I know I’ll get a letter very soon. Like lots of other people I can barely say the word, and certainly can’t watch anything on telly (and hte word jab – similtaneously brutal and as if it’s no big deal). I hate the idea of the mass vaccination centre too. I have been going over and over in my head whether I can avoid it but it seems increasingly unlikely. I wish the J&J one had been approved as the idea of one dose would be more bearable. There seems to be quite a lot of research going on into nasal sprays and pills so perhaps those will be available in the not too distant future – huge benefit to everyone around the world, not just the phobics.

    • I agree Lucy
      I don’t fear needles. I’ve had plenty of blood tests and dental work. I fear the actual vaccine poison me and make me unwell. Too many side effects.

  18. If you are thinking of forgoing the vaccine because of a needle phobia please ask your doctor for Diazepam, this has helped cure me of a very serious needle phobia (in my early days I passed out a number of times including while having a cholesterol thumb prick test!) I have experienced unsympathetic reactions from (mainly) nurses, one of whom laughed in my face! (I’m a six foot male, I suppose the image is amusing). But one lovely doctor listened and explained the Vasovagal syncope and prescribed Diazepam, this completely turned my life around and I now suffer no anxiety when faced with a procedure involving needles, I actually don’t even need Diazepam anymore.

    • I have diazepam prescription. It’s the only med I occasionally take 2mg. Only for sleeping.
      But it won’t protect against flu like symptoms or other side effects such as vomiting
      So it won’t help me here in this case

  19. Can anyone help me? My phobia isn’t of the needle. It’s of side effects. I couldn’t cope with them and may attempt self harm or even as far as suicide if a vaccine made me unwell. My anxiety issues mean that I need to drive away from my house and escape so I am not left alone to suffer in the event of any illness whatsoever.
    If I feel ill I want to punish my body for trapping me. I have nobody with me to watch me. So I have to avoid being ill. I have not taken any medications because of fear of side effects in 25 years. In my youth I took tablets and had nasty side effects. Now I won’t dare risk anything in case I am left ill and unable to drive and escape. I am diagnosed autistic and PTSD and OCD

  20. I have needle phobia for the last 30 years. All these years I’m trying different therapies. None helps. It’s literally impossible to get help in the UK. The only source is Anxiety UK, but their page is full of needle photos, so I can’t even read it.

    • This may be too late in terms of a reply since this was back in March, but my needle phobia is more feeling related rather than the sight of needles. I can go on the Anxiety Uk website and copy and paste all the info into an email, so you can read it without having to worry about seeing photos of needles. If you ever see this, and would like this, just reply and I’ll help out where I can!

  21. I wi I could reassure you all about having the vaccine I have had severe anxiety issues for 35 years – agoraphobia gad etc. So just getting to the surgery is an issue for me and the thought of the vaccine and waiting around is awful my mind just moves into over drive and the anxiety feels awful .
    On the day of my appointment I just wanted to run away but I watched “Finding Derek” and knew I had to have the vaccine even if I collapsed having it done! From arriving to leaving it was 2 minutes and I didn’t feel a thing I was waiting for it but was told I could go!! Absolutely so easy and the elation of getting through it is amazing I’m still riding the high!! Please please believe me you can do it when you go take someone and talk or distract yourself whilst waiting I know it is so hard to deal with when your body and mind are screaming run away but face your fear you can do it and the feelin after gives you such a buzz and a feeling you can conquer anything x

  22. I thought I would give an update on my experience. My local surgery stopped doing Saturday clinics so the only option was the mass vaccination centre. I booked for last Friday evening and chose the last available slot. On arrival it was very quiet and I was the only person there apart from medical and admin staff. I explained that I could easily pass out so not only did they let my husband go in with me they also said I could go into a room which had a bed in it. The layout of the centre meant there wasn’t much clinical equipment on show. We were taken into the room by a lovely paramedic gentleman who was so reassuring, calm and kind and didn’t make me feel silly. We talked generally for a couple of minutes and then when he administered the vaccine I asked him not to tell me anything until it was over. I felt a little prick but it didn’t hurt and was over quickly. The fact that it wasn’t busy and that I could have a private room helped enormously. I sat in the chair rather than lay on the bed but it was reassuring to know a bed was there if I felt faint. It was useful having my husband with me too. In the week prior I had been doing some self hypnosis/meditation techniques which I like to think helped me. For others dreading the vaccine I would suggest:-
    1. some form of meditation/hypnosis,
    2. ask if there is a private room available at the centre
    3. ask if someone can go with you
    4. try and get the last slot of the day because it is less likely to be busy and therefore not so stressful
    Naturally, I’m not looking forward to my second vaccine and I’m not sure that I could have an annual booster but that’s all for the future. As regards side effects, I woke up yesterday with a headache, aching arm and a feeling of tiredness. I rested most of the day and took a paracetamol. Today I feel fine. I hope this helps others.

  23. Well I finally did it, booked it for early Saturday morning and to be honest started my melt down as I approached the building. A young girl came and escorted me straight through, she filled in my paperwork for me, I couldn’t hold the pen I was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t see because I was crying too much. She took me to the nurse at the station and a male nurse took me to the booth, 2 ladies put a screen round me so my meltdown was private, a nurse held my hand while the man did my vaccination to be fair ut didn’t hurt but my rationale goes out the window. I honestly can’t thank them all enough they were absolutely amazing and I’m so proud of myself but oh its such a draining experience and I know il be as bad the next time, but I did it, go me

  24. My fear came out of nowhere, was at school , watching another boy before me get his done. I just freaked out and refused all injections for anything ever since. Im 33 now.

    Now with covid, I don’t really have much choice yet still my mind refuses to push me to get it done. Its more the idea I dont like the pain element to it. Ive been offered it 3 times and I cant bring myself to get it done 🙁

    I work in the NHS with the ambulance service, as a covid testing operative, so I am on the frontline all the time 🙁 I need to work, but every day Im putting my life at risk. Its soul destroying.
    I feel happy helping others but deep down I really need help myself on this.
    Any suggestions are most welcome

  25. I will literally probably never allow venipuncture again unless my life depends on it. That said, there’s a HUGE difference, pain-wise, between a 21g needle going into a vein and a 25 or 28g needle being used in a quick, low volume IM injection. The COVID shot is truly no biggie — not even in the same realm as a blood draw. Get it!! I did!!

  26. I’ve had needle phobia for over 40 years — I managed a 40 hour labour with only gas and air rather than have anything intravenous. I have really struggled with the flood of images and news articles in recent months about vaccines, but knew that somehow, I had to have it. Until this year, I have avoided any vaccination since 1978. In tha past, I have tried hypnotherapy, EMDR, exposure therapy, psychotherapy. They have all helped reduce my anxiety and I no longer feel violent when unexpectedly approached about a blood test or injection. However, the intense fear and terror has not gone, I have panic attacks and cry hysterically, so embarrassing. What I have done is to have Zopiclone prescribed. I used Diazepam for a blood test but managed to have a panic attack on that! I have had my first shot and am having my second tomorrow morning. I took 2 Zopiclone and did loads of mindfulness and grounding exercises. I still felt tearful, scared and panicky but I got it done! Terrified about tomorrow but know I can do it again. Anyone with this phobia, do what works for you, be open to anything and remember that YOU are in control and can ask for what you need.

  27. I have had a phobia of needles since childhood. I had a terrible experience with my TB ECG vaccine when I was 11. I was in such a state that I had to be taken to the vaccination room by a teacher, who then stayed with me throughout the process.
    Now 36 years later, and I haven’t had any form of vaccination since. I have always refused the flu jab when offered, and even had some dental treatment without an injection, until I got to the point where I couldn’t face that anymore and now don’t go there either.
    Nobody understands my phobia of needles. Everyone I speak to asks me when – not if – I am going to have the Covid vaccine. When I explain to them I can’t do it, the responses I have had are terrible. The most upsetting one was when my sister and brother in law came for a day in the garden a couple of weeks ago. My sister is a qualified nurse, so I thought she would have dealt with this before and been more understanding. Apparently not. My brother in law said ‘don’t expect us to visit you in hospital when you get Covid’.
    I still can’t bring myself to go, and now I feel even less like getting the vaccine after what I’ve been through.

  28. I am completely needle phobic and due to being high risk was called for the vaccine sooner than expected. Immediately had a meltdown but talked to my daughter who is also phobic so I knew she would not dismiss it. I also called a psychiatrist friend who I knew would not dismiss it either. I had almost gotten a handle on at least getting blood tests done until the deluge of photos of people getting this vaccine (covid) which increased my terror 1000 fold. I also have CPTSD and find it difficult to leave my house. I took two xanax and with courage in both hands went yesterday to my GP. The nurses were so kind, understood absolutely and let me in a room on my own. They also did not let me wait long. I did not tell many people about the phobia as I wanted to avoid the ‘ah you’ll be fine if you look away’ ‘don’t be silly’ ‘it doesn’t hurt’ etc. because these people did not get the fact that none of these things are the problem. I got through it and the nurses allowed me to sit there sipping water until I was ready to leave. I then sat in my car frozen in place in tears for over 2hrs in a post shock reaction. At least it is done and I was lucky enough to get the pfizer so I only have four weeks to live through panic before the next one. Poor people have to wait 12 weeks for the Astra Zeneca one. Very glad to have found this site where there are others who understand too.

  29. Just wanted to leave a comment because this site helped me massively before my jab today.

    I’m so needle phobic that it’s written on my medical records that I am “a danger to myself and others when around needles” and I can honestly say it’s the thought of it is so much worse than the actual doing of it. I didn’t have a particularly friendly nurse, she actually told me off for using Emla cream (which besides getting told off, I’m sure helped) and it was over in a blink of an eye and didn’t hurt a bit. I was so unconvinced by people saying it didn’t hurt – but it honestly didn’t. It’s odd because you can feel it, but the sensation isn’t pain.

    My arm feels quite dead weight now, and I’m starting to feel pretty tired but if you’re anything like me, you feel like you can cope with that, it’s just actually getting through the door and getting past the needles that’s the problem. Be brave, don’t let fight or flight take over and look away.

  30. My phobia of needles started when I were 6 years old. I wasn’t scared of them at the time, I had lined up with the others my age to get our vaccination at school and we all bragged about not getting a plaster. Anyway, I sat down, watched the nurse prepare the syringe and to their credit, told me to look away. I didn’t. I screamed when it went in, it hurt, got back to the classroom and threw up everywhere.

    3 years later, my Mum had a breast cancer scare. She told me she had fainted due to a needle, and this reinforced my phobia of them and swore I’d never have one again.

    At the age of 15, we needed our boosters. I turned this down at school and my girlfriend at the time convinced me to have it at the doctors. They were really good with me. But, my fear never eased.

    At 18, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I had a dilemma. I created an equation in my head, that the fear of dying from cancer was greater than the fear of needles. This helped me through my cancer treatment, but I asked for a PICC line, as it reduced the amount of needles I needed. I fought so hard and was pinned down (by choice, mind. I knew I couldn’t stay there myself)

    Every 3 months I had a blood test, which I can just about cope with, just. Now, it is every year and now the gaps between them have gotten further apart, my fear is as bad as ever. I now throw up every test. (Thankfully never fainted, but that’s due to self-calming after the event)

    I had a major operation, and required fragmin jabs in the stomach for 28 days in a row, it was torture. All of these experiences have merged into an even worse phobia of needles.

    Now, we are faced with mass vaccination by needles as a way out of the pandemic. I cannot bring myself to do it. I too, like many comments on here, have seen an increase in anxiety as society judge us as ‘anti-vaxxers’ (we’re not), as ‘wimps’, as ‘babies’, topped with other unhelpful comments such as ‘it doesn’t hurt’ to ‘it’s over before you know it’. As well as anxieties over needing to have it to travel and potentially covid passports in the UK.

    It is the thought of needing 2 plus boosters. It’s too much. So, my equation in my head is now, what am I more afraid of? I’m more scared of the needles than contracting COVID. So, logically in my mind, I will not have the vaccine until a tablet form comes out. But, you are made to feel so bad for it. Luckily, I have work colleagues and family who understand the phobia and that helps.

    But, the media peddling images of needles is enough to send me to the floor. I’m not scared of pain, it’s an irrational phobia which cannot be rationed with explanation. I know the rationale behind it. But that doesn’t help my phobia. I’d sooner the dentist drill my tooth and rattle my nerve around and be in pain than have a needle – I know, I’ve had that done! It’s illogical, right? But, not to us with real phobias.

    I’m heartened to hear there’s others like me out there, but saddened to hear so many bad experiences for you all.

    ‘being brave’ is such a poor phrase, it makes us feel like the fear is justified.

    Good luck to you all and hope some/most can overcome this debilitating fear.

    • Your story resonates with me so much. I am so overwhelmed right now with anxiety over this – it is a constant fear for me. Being brave is a word that is often said to me, but they don’t understand the crippling fear that takes over you. It is a very powerful phobia. I have had mine for as long as I can remember – I had a traumatic experience as a child and it’s affected me ever since. I don’t improve and this time period has made it worse for me. The more the pressure is applied the worse it gets for me. I am having hypnosis over the next two weeks and as much as I want to be free of this part of me feel doubtful. I will try. I am to holding out for an alternative delivery which seems to not be happening quickly. In the meantime, I am treated as unclean, and potentially I won’t be able to access life as I would normally. That fills me with such desperation and lack of hope.

      • Hi Helen, so sorry to hear you’re the same as me with the constant fear! The phobia is one that far too few people understand outside of those who have the actual phobia.

        But, any phobia, regardless of how stupid it may be to those without that fear, needs to be treated with such delicacy, compassion, respect and calmness. There is someone at my mums school with a phobia of buttons! But they will be just as terrifying to him as needles to us, spiders to arachnophobes etc. The fundamental fear is exactly the same. Yet, other people have better support than us and it’s utterly appalling.

        The NHS put out an advert the other week, about a young lad scared of needles. They did everything right, showed the compassion, got him a bed to lay on etc. Then, they showed the needle! They just do not understand the audience they tried desperately to reach out to!

        ‘Just 5 seconds’. Constant fear started for me around November when it became apparent this was the way forward. That’s 9 months. 9 months of pure dread. They just do not understand and it will not help saying ‘5 seconds’ when we’ve had thousands of 5 seconds of fear!

        Good luck with your hypnosis, I really hope it works for you! I do believe it has a high success rate.

  31. I had my second jab yesterday and very much relieved that It is over and done with The worry and stress of having the vaccine out weighs actually having the vaccine it is painless and quick the staff make you feel relaxed and treat you with respect having the vaccine is way better than ending up in icu with all sorts of machines around you so go for it be a solider and get it done ASAP

  32. I too have needle phobia after a devil dentist as a child I faint at even seeing a needle on tv . It’s really messed my life up as I now have only 2 teeth.left as all fallen out am in pain all the time and have to buy anti biotics from the internet as I get abscesses all the time . I also have terrible fear of anything medical and freak out when even passing a hospital tryed hypnotherapy but no help no nowhere to turn

  33. I’ve only just come across this article and I really wish the government would read something like this. I’ve tried CBT and it had no effect whatsoever and this seems to be the only option given by the NHS when I speak to my GP. I’m quite literally at my wit’s end now. It seems it’s either die of covid or a knackered heart from all the anxiety of trying to work yourself up to having the vax. What an awful, devastating time it is for us needle phobes I really wish the above techniques worked for me but my head wins every time

  34. Because of Covid and it’s fear, people have also the fear of its vaccine. We need to understand the uses of the vaccination because it helps to understand things.

  35. Good luck to you all, and well done to everyone who managed to get injected. I can’t imagine having a needle phobia, but I am scared of heights and would never cross a glass bridge no matter how many engineers reports I was shown, so I can empathise.

  36. Neeedles hurt. I have needle phobia because they hurt me and you never know just how hard the nurse is going to stab you. I’ve been researching “painless needles”. They have been in development since 2015, maybe before that. I don’t understand why they aren’t available to the masses yet. It would have been a big help to getting more people to get the shots.

    • How awful! The lack of compassion, the lack of understanding, is utterly staggering.

      The NHS put out an advert the other week, about a young lad scared of needles. They did everything right, showed the compassion, got him a bed to lay on etc. Then, they showed the needle! They just do not understand the audience they tried desperately to reach out to!

  37. I have needle phobia.. Seriously I would rather die than have a needle any where near me…And no one understands me and why…

    • So sorry to hear how scared you both are! You both actually sound even worse than me! I’d sooner have a needle than die, but I do understand where you both are coming from. I’d sooner the dentist drill my tooth and rattle my nerve around and be in pain than have a needle – I know, I’ve had that done! I couldn’t imagine having a fear as deep rooted as yours.

      Needle phobia is one of the most dangerous phobias around, as many, including you 2, would sooner avoid medical attention than receive a needle. This is why it is so important for people to understand this more, and sure even more compassion and better offers of help.

      If you cannot bring yourself to do it, and do not be pressured otherwise, then I wish you both luck and stay safe.

  38. Gosh, reading these has made me realise how I am not alone. I can’t go, I just can’t. I am totally terrified and at the moment I am living in constant anxiety that the government will pretty much take away my life if I don’t do it. I am shunned and judged and made to feel like someone unclean. I have lived with this all my life after a traumatic incident as a child when I had had an accident and was held face down on a medical table by strangers injecting my head and stitching me. All whilst my parents were kept in the corridor. I screamed and screamed and even to this day when I re-call the memory I cry. I really don’t know what to do. I am utterly frozen. I was called in April and I am still not able to go. So much pressure, talk of needles etc… It isn’t helping at all. Why can’t they have developed a needle-free version. I am so frightened all of the time. I am trying hypnosis starting next week, but I feel that this has become such a force that I don’t know how successful it will be. The thought of having to go twice is also causing further fear – I doubt I would ever get back for a booster.
    The last time I had an injection was 20 years ago and even that I resisted – lying in an ambulance with a shattered leg I would only take gas and air. It took a very very kind Dr in A&E to be able to convince me to take some pain relief. He numbed my hand and was super gentle. I really wish I didn’t have this – it is the worse feeling – it completely takes over and breaks you.

  39. Hi,
    I have read this page many times and have been really grateful for the contributions and support of others so I wanted to come back and post my own experience with the vaccination.

    I ignored the many text I got from the NHS to go and have mine, I am 46 so I think I was first alerted in April ish but it has taken me months to get it and 2 attempts at trying. The first time I made it to the door. I started crying and could not bring myself to do it. The staff were so very lovely and told me what time of day was better so that I would not have a long wait.

    I went back today (31/8/21) , a week later and there was no wait. Everyone, and I do mean everyone I met was so very kind. I was handled with care and kindness and I was allowed to cry as much as I wanted, which I did. I also told myself I could leave whenever I wanted., which they also told me.

    I was first asked to check my temp and then sat for about 3 minutes. The next step was to be taken to a private cubicle where I was asked how I was feeling and if I wanted to continue. I was then encouraged to voice my fears and was told it was ok that I couldn’t really explain what the fear was. Anytime I said sorry for making fuss I was told I was no fuss and that I was brave to be there and one lady even thanked me for getting so far.

    After a bunch of questions ( are you allergic, are you pregnant, are you taking any other meds etc) I was taken to another room where I lay down and I asked for it in my thigh. I wanted to be able to turn away and in theory, be as far away from what was going on as possible. I was also given a pharmacy student to hold onto, he was so very sweet and I held his hand while I turned away and kind of hid partly in his arms and partly in my coat.

    I felt almost nothing. I have read a few people here who have said this and this is what I clung onto and I promise you I felt almost nothing. It felt like a scratch and even then a gentle one, like a cross between something brushing against me and a gentle scratch . It is easy for me to say that now that I have had it but before this I cried walking in the door, at the chair, talking to the volunteer, when I sat down etc ,and at one point not just small tears but I was bordering on big crying but managed to just do it.

    There is no way I can explain how terrified I was or that the vaccine itself was ok and that anyone will believe me, all I can do is tell you my experiences but if your fear is pain there is none, just a scratching sensation and if you fear is needles, ask to have it in the thigh and turn away.

    If anyone needs to talk about going I am really happy to call you/email so I can tell you what it was like which may help. For me the fear was so very great but the experience was so very tiny that I am almost shocked at how little it effected me.

    Good luck to you all, from my experience, YOU CAN DO IT!! You just have to try and if that takes you months to make the appointment and more than 1 attempted then that is totally ok, you do it in your own time and don’t let anyone force you.

    Big fat hug to you all.

    (btw, this forum does not seem to let people know when someone asked a questions to your post but I will check back incase anyone has a question for me)

  40. I like others have always had a dread and strong fear of needles and when it came to getting this ‘SHOT ‘JAB’ only backed up my thoughts and fear of dread… I was a mess since my partner booked my vaccine appointment as I knew damn well I would never do it myself…. the weekend leading upto the morning of my vaccine appointment I lost all control of my emotions 🙁

    fast forward to the morning (yesterday) I dragged myself to the vaccination centre covered in skin numbing cream managed to take deep breaths while looking away then hearing 2seconds later ‘All Done!’ I was going from panicked to a puzzled state!! honestly didn’t feel a breath of air on my arm and apart from the tender arm today I wouldn’t have believed I even had it!!.. I feel so silly that it had overtaken all my thoughts over the past few weeks… the fear is real I know but for anyone going through this please get yourself some numbing cream from the chemist and try it…. I asked the person who gave me the shot if it was because of the cream and he said no but im definitely using it for my second shot in a few weeks for peace of mind lol

    feel like a new person today knowing I got through this and for anyone going through the same thing I understand… what a relief!!! X

  41. I had no idea that people actually have needle phobia. I thought it was some sort of excuse. Now I hope these people can overcome this fear in order to get vaccinated.

  42. I suffer from sever needle fear. I am 56 years old and my second COVID shot was my 4th injection that I can remember in my life. Im going for my booster in 3 hrs time and the feelings are not good.
    To enable me get the first Covid shot my doctor prescribed therapy sessions, I had six in total. They were great. My fear goes back to my Dad having cancer when I was 11 years old. He also contracted hepatitis and I had to get vaccinated for that. I can still feel the syringe in my thigh and can feel the fluid going into my leg.
    The trauma of Dad and the hep needle is still so vivid. The hep needle was in my right thigh and yet when I have to visit hospitals/doctors etc the left knee locks up.
    Anyway the therapy helped and I also had 3 hypnotherapy sessions via zoom due to COVID lockdowns.
    Finally, my doctor prescribed Diazepam so away I went. The nurses were fantastic and caring. I was going to try and get todays booster without popping a pill but my stomach is in knots.

    I think all three avenues helped me. The therapy got to the root cause, the hypnotherapy altered by thoughts and the Diazepam took the edge off.
    The next big step of getting a blood test for the first time.

  43. Im going tomorrow for the 1st covid shot and I’m literally been stressed out for days thinking about this since I booked it. I have fear of needles with major anxiety and panic attack. This is the biggest reason I have not got this administered yet but I got covid Dec 30th and NEED to get this. I’ve looked up the gauge n all the comments trying to ease my mind. Any suggestions ???

  44. I’m glad that the needles don’t hurt that bad. I need to get vaccinated against. I just don’t want to be another statistic.

  45. Some people are scared tp get the dosage from someone elses hand , and they would prefer to get the dosage from someone known or a family member . Online pharmacy and covid testing kit home delivery has made things even more easier for people .


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