Q: I just turned 18 and I realise that from now onwards, my visa renewal will involve blood tests. Also, now that vaccines for Covid are available in the UAE, I feel I should take either of them soon. The thing is I am terrified of hypodermic needles. This fear has been with me since I can remember. The mere sight of any syringe can make me panic and I break out in a sweat. Can you please help me so I will not make a scene at the clinic?

A: Working as a life-coach and hypnotherapist for about 30 years in the UAE as well as the UK, I have interacted closely with my clients, helping them overcome their fears, among other issues. So, right away, let me tell you, your situation is not uncommon and there is no reason to be embarrassed about it.

With various Covid vaccination campaigns aiming to get life back to normal, as well as any future medical procedures, big or small, you will definitely encounter situations involving a syringe. It takes a lot of courage to make a decision to overcome any particular fear or phobia, so I want to commend you on taking this first important step.

Let us first try to understand your phobia. Trypanophobia, or needle phobia as it is commonly referred to as, is an extreme fear related to any kind of medical procedures that involve the use of hypodermic needles. In fact, about 20 per cent of the population reportedly suffers a varying degree of this fear, while 10 per cent within that number suffer from trypanophobia. Proof you are not alone.

As you may have observed, it is common to see young children get uncomfortable or burst into tears when receiving a shot. This is simply because they are unfamiliar with the feeling of the syringe piercing through their skin. Usually, as one grows older, this fear and discomfort tends to reduce gradually. But in some adults, this fear can remain or intensify.

A fear towards needles isn’t as straightforward as one would think. There are four forms of fear. The most common, brought about by a traumatic experience, is associated fear. Resistive fear stems from the fear of being restrained. Hyperalgesic fear is where one fears pain and sensitivity to pain and is triggered by the mere thought that needles cause pain. The last form, which affects about 50 per cent of the sufferers, is vasovagal fear, a pure fear of needles or sharp implements. It can lead to fainting at the sight or even thought of a needle.

So how do these phobias work? In simple terms, phobias are usually formed when a specific trigger, in this case the needle, creates a very strong physical response during the first encounter one has with this trigger. So, when this trigger appears again, the brain sends aversion signals to the body, which then replicates the same fear response. This response could be feelings of panic, high blood pressure, high heart rate, nausea and much more.

Now that you have an idea of your phobia, let us look at ways to tackle this fear. Based on your query, I understand that this phobia has affected you. There are various options that you can consider to help you overcome your phobia.

While there are certain techniques like taking in deep breaths to bring your stress levels down, or to talking to your nurse or doctor beforehand regarding your aversion towards hypodermic needles or even preparing yourself mentally for any medical procedure involving needles in advance, these may only help you in the short run. It is better to consult an expert to deal with something as deep rooted as a phobia.

One technique that I use, which has resulted in positive responses from my clients, is the use of hypnosis. After identifying the origin or form of your fear, hypnosis then aims to break pre-established patterns of negative responses towards the trigger – in your case hypodermic needles. It then re-maps the brain to send a positive response to the trigger. So, the next time you have to come in contact with a hypodermic needle, you stay calm and collected to encounter the procedure.

Hypnosis has brought about a significant number of positive responses from all my clients who were held down by different phobias. Don’t hesitate to reach out for any help regarding your phobia. As always help is just a call away.

Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based lifecoach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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