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  • Elizabeth McMahon Ph.D.

6 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Needles

No matter how long you have been afraid, these strategies can help.

6 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Needles

  • Fear of needles can last for years, harm your health, and limit your life.

  • Needle fear can be overcome. Identify specific fears and get the facts. Correct any misinformation.

  • Plan for realistic, likely problems. Prepare in advance.

  • Act on the facts, not your fear, then praise and reward yourself for following your plan.

Fear of needles is very common. Studies suggest that most children, up to 50 percent of teenagers, and at least 20 to 30 percent of adults have some fear of needles. It is a serious problem.



You may refuse needed injections, lab tests, or IVs.

If needles scare you, try to follow these six steps. No matter how long you have been afraid, this fear can be overcome.


6 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Needles Therapy Appointment

Step 1: Identify the Fears

Ask yourself what exactly you fear. Put your fears into words. For example, do you fear that:


  • You will be anxious or have a panic attack?

  • You will faint?

  • You will experience intense pain?

  • You will bleed too much or be damaged by the needle in some way?

  • The healthcare worker will be incompetent or uncaring?


Explore your fears in detail. Only when you know precisely what you think will happen, can you explore whether the feared outcome is realistic. When fear or worry are justified, anxiety alerts you to this and motivates you to take appropriate actions.


Step 2: Get the Facts

After putting your fears into words, check them against the facts.

Do this in writing. Take your time. Make a table with two columns and several rows:


  • In the lefthand column, write one worry or feared outcome per row. Be as clear and specific as possible about what you fear may happen.

  • In the righthand column, be unemotionally objective. Evaluate the fear, starting with facts that support the fear. Then add everything that questions or disproves the fear.

Correct misinformation about the procedure or the body. Answer questions like:


  • Is what the fear says true?

  • Does what you worry about actually happen? If it does happen, how long does it last?

  • How bad is it really in the larger scheme of things? Is it truly “the worst” that could happen?

  • Are healthcare professionals really sadists who enjoy torturing patients?

  • How can you cope with fear instead of giving in to it?

  • Why is it important for you to get this medical procedure?



6 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Needles In Person Therapy Appointment


6 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Needles Virtual Therapy Appointment


Step 3: Plan for Likely Problems

You may get anxious. Injections are sometimes painful. Some people do faint. Think about how you will cope with problems that are likely to occur.


If you fear being anxious, get the facts about anxiety and panic. Learn coping techniques like belly breathing with a slow exhale. Understand that you must show your brain you will no longer be bullied by fear.


If you fear pain, ask your healthcare provider for numbing cream to use in advance.

If you pass out, meet with a therapist to learn “applied tension”. This technique prevents fainting and usually takes only one or two sessions to learn.


Step 4: Prepare

Change what you tell yourself. Repeatedly read the information you wrote in Step 2. Practice shifting from fearful thoughts to facts until you remember the facts even when you’re scared. Accept that anxiety is uncomfortable but not dangerous.

Write about and imagine coping successfully and getting the procedure despite anxiety. Visualize being compassionate, realistic, and firm with your fear. If you have a therapist who offers virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), practice getting virtual blood draws or injections.

Think about all the reasons to overcome your fear. Consider the benefits and the relief that overcoming the fear of needles will bring. Remember why it is worth the work.


Step 5: Act on the facts, not the fear

As explained in Overcoming Anxiety and Panic interactive guide, you are more likely to stay scared if you:


  • Avoid or run from what scares you.

  • Fight your anxiety response because you fear it.

  • Do things to feel “safe” from a fear that the facts don’t support.

  • Do what scares you but stay on high alert and “white-knuckle” through, hating it the whole time.

Your job is to act on what the facts say—not what your fears say—even when you are scared. This strengthens you, weakens fear, and improves your life and your health.


6 Steps to Overcome a Fear of Needles Therapy Appointment

Step 6: Praise and Reward Yourself

Reward yourself with something nice. You showed courage and perseverance. Be proud of yourself and your progress. Focus on the positives


Getting Help for Needle Fears

Carrying out the six steps can be easier with support and guidance from a therapist who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for phobias. If your therapist offers virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), you can practice getting virtual blood draws or injections until your fear subsides.


Needle phobia can respond quickly to treatment. No matter how long this fear has troubled you, there is hope.


Elizabeth McMahon, Ph.D., - Website -

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