What is Trypanophobia?

Trypanophobia is the irrational and morbid fear of injections and is closely related to a fear of needles, medical procedures, etc. The fear of needles and/or injections is very common, broadly affecting both children and adults, and may be associated with more than the pain of the injection in the sense that the fearful individual may also deeply fear loss of control or death.

Fear of needles is often present with other phobias related to medical procedures and pain. For example, Iatrophobia, or the irrational fear of doctors, is often seen in Trypanophobic patients.

This phobia is recognized in the 4th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as having four distinct types. Vasovagal Trypanophobia manifests as fainting due to a vasovagal response (thought to be an inherited trait) causing a drop in blood pressure. Associative Trypanophobia results from the association of pain. Resistive Trypanophobia is associated with being restricted or held down during the procedure. Lastly, Hyperalgesic Trypanophobia occurs in people who have generally heightened sensitivity to pain such that the sensation of injection is highly painful.

Trypanophobia is closely related to Aichmophobia (fear of needles or pointed objects, a.k.a Enetophobia) and Belonephobia (fear of pins and needles).

The Greek root word 'trypano' means 'auger' (a device used to drill a hole). The term “trepanning”, also based on this root, is the historical medical procedure of drilling a hole in someone’s head. Additionally, the word 'phobia' comes from the Greek word ‘phóbos’ meaning 'fear.'

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Symptoms of Trypanophobia

  • Extreme Anxiety, Dread

  • Shortness of Breath
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth
  • Confusion / Inability to Articulate Clearly
  • Lack of Focus
  • Irritability
  • Shaking
  • Feelings of Powerlessness
  • Obsession with the Subject of the Phobia
  • Fear or Feelings of Losing Control
  • Avoidance Behavior
  • Headaches

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Causes of Trypanophobia

Trypanophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (such as “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. (An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.)

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. (A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.)

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well-understood, are driven by social anxiety, and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation, seeing something in the news, on TV, or in the movies.

Trypanophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

The fearful individual does not need to have an imminent injection to trigger symptoms or develop or reinforce this phobia. There are many triggers through association, such as seeing blood or injuries, the sight of a needle physically or on a screen, sewing pins or needles, examination rooms, hospitals, white lab coats, hospital gowns, doctors, dentists, nurses, etc.

Learn more about the causes of phobias ›

Treatments for Trypanophobia

  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

  • Habit Strategies To Relax
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT)
  • In Vivo Exposure
  • Response Prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

Learn more about phobia treatments ›

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