3 ways to manage a fear of needles



Facing a Fear of Needles to Treat Psoriasis

Whether or not to treat your condition with self-injections can be a tough decision.

author-avatarBy Howard Chang

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For many people, the fear of needles can pose an obstacle to some treatment options.
For many people, the fear of needles can pose an obstacle to some treatment options.
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Out of the blue, a friend asked me, “Is it hard to inject yourself?” He had been told that one of his treatment options for a newly diagnosed condition involved self-injections. Knowing that I had experience injecting myself with biologic medications, he wanted my perspective.

My reply was, “How much time do you have?” Little did my friend know about my tortured relationship with injections for psoriasis. The technical word for the fear of needles is "trypanophobia," and that makes me a trypanophobe.

I’ve written about how my fear of needles started at an early age. It once took three adults to hold me down for one immunization. I knew I was destined to be a runner as I sprinted down the hall to elude them.

It’s amusing to look back and see how far I’ve come. I never looked forward to needle pokes for blood tests once I started systemic medications like methotrexate in college. I didn’t like the idea of those large needles for my liver biopsies either. But at least those instances didn’t require me to inject myself.

The reality of having to treat psoriasis forced me to face my fear.

My First Self-Injection Experiences

Back in the early 2000s, a new class of medications called biologics emerged as a treatment for psoriatic disease. One of these drugs, Enbrel (etanercept), required weekly self-injections. My psoriasis was doing poorly on other treatments available at the time, so I felt I had no choice. I needed to learn how to inject myself subcutaneously, or under the skin.

I appreciated how my doctor provided me with training and instructions. He had me practice injecting an orange, which he said was a technique used by medical students.

At first I used a syringe filled with medicine that I prepared by swirling the medication with water. Soon after, the medication came in a prefilled syringe. I was relieved that I didn't need to mix the medication myself or worry about injecting bubbles under my skin.

Then one day, my prescription came in an injectable pen. To take the medication, I pressed the pen down on my skin and pushed a button on the end. The pen provided convenience, but the loud noise of the spring shooting the needle into my skin left me a bit shaken.

I’ve injected myself hundreds of times over the years. I still don’t like injection days, but I’ve made my peace with the fact that it’s a necessary part of my treatment.

A Personal Treatment Choice

After sharing my injection experiences with my friend, I told him, “It’s really a choice between you and your doctor. But if that treatment is what you think is best, then you can get used to the needle.” Last time we spoke, he was still weighing his options.

Recent medical innovations in targeting inflammation pathways on the molecular level have led to more treatment options than ever before. Unfortunately, many of these medications cannot be ingested like a pill and need to be injected. How a medication is administered is certainly a consideration for each individual.

I wish I could say that overcoming my fear of needles led me to a psoriasis cure. The biologics need to be taken regularly to remain effective. Some might work for one person but not another. Of the five biologics I’ve tried, none of them have cleared my skin the way I hoped they would. Still, overcoming my fear of needles allowed me to get some relief.

Tips on Self-Injecting

If you’re looking at treatment options that require self-injections, here are some suggestions:

  • Talk about your concerns with your healthcare provider. I’ve found doctors and nurses to be understanding and patient about my fears and anxieties.
  • Take advantage of resources such as nurse’s visits, training videos, and medication instruction inserts to learn more. Being informed builds confidence and familiarity.
  • Take a caregiver or friend with you to medical visits. They can help you remember details or answers to your questions. In some cases, they may be able to help you inject your medication.
  • Develop a routine. On injection day, I set aside time in the evening in a quiet, well-lit corner of my house to administer my medicine. I keep my injection supplies, such as cotton balls, alcohol wipes, and a sharps container, conveniently nearby.
  • Ask questions if you’re unsure about any part of the injection process or the medication itself. I’ve contacted healthcare providers and drug manufacturer help lines many times.

You can read more about my experiences on my blog for Everyday Health and on my website.

Last Updated:2/14/2018
Important:The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Everyday Health.
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Date: 11.12.2018, 14:35 / Views: 31483


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