Trypanophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. It is occasionally referred to as aichmophobia, belonephobia, or enetophobia, names that are technically incorrect because they simply denote a “fear of pins/needles” and do not refer to the medical aspect of trypanophobia. The name that is in common usage is simply needle phobia, while the correct scientific term is trypanophobia. more...
The condition was officially recognized in 1994 in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th edition) as a specific phobia of blood/injection/injury type. Phobic level responses to injections cause sufferers to avoid inoculations, blood tests and in the more severe cases, all medical care.
It is estimated that at least ten percent of American adults are trypanophobic, and it is likely that the actual number is larger, as the most severe cases are never documented due to the tendency of the sufferer to simply avoid all medical treatment.
Types of Trypanophobia
Although trypanophobia is defined simply as an extreme fear of medically related shots/injections, it appears in several varieties.
Although most specific phobias stem from the individual themselves, the most common type of trypanophobia, affecting fifty percent of trypanophobes, is an inherited reflex. Approximately 80 % of trypanophobes report that a relative within the first degree exhibits the same disorder. People who suffer from vaso-vagal trypanophobia fear the sight, thought or feeling of needles or needle-like objects. The primary symptom of vaso-vagal trypanophobia is vaso-vagal syncope, or fainting due to loss of blood pressure. The physiological changes associated with this type of trypanophobia also include feeling faint, sweating, nausea, pallor, tinnitus, panic attacks and initially high blood pressure and heart rate followed by a plunge in both at the moment of injection. In this case, the patient is more likely to react passively as opposed to aggressively. Although most phobias are dangerous to some degree, trypanophobia is one of the few that actually kills. In cases of severe trypanophobia, the drop in blood pressure caused by the vaso-vagal shock reflex causes death. The best treatment strategy for this type of trypanophobia is desensitization or the progressive exposure of the patient to gradually more frightening stimuli, allowing them to become desensitized to the stimulus that triggers the phobic response.
Associative Trypanophobia is the second most common type of trypanophobia, affecting thirty percent of needle phobes. This type of trypanophobia is the classic specific phobia in which a traumatic event such as an extremely painful medical procedure or witnessing a family member or friend undergo such, causes the patient to associate all procedures involving needles with the original negative experience. This form of trypanophobia causes symptoms that are primarily psychological in nature, such as extreme unexplained anxiety, insomnia, preoccupation with the coming procedure and panic attacks. Treatments that are effective for this form of trypanophobia include cognitive therapy, hypnosis, and/or the administration of anti-anxiety medications.
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