One of our weapons against the Covid virus is vaccinations. Some people are reluctant to be vaccinated, for various reasons. One of those reasons is absolute avoidance of needles. Some people say they just can’t do it. This results in a contest between the need to protect themselves and everyone around them through the vaccine, versus the fear of needles. Psychologists have effective strategies to overcome this fear. Research indicates that exposure therapy, distraction, and realistic coping statements can make a difference.

Needles can cause some people to faint. Blood pressure can shoot up and then down very quickly. Besides fainting, they may feel dizzy, nauseated, or begin to sweat. Strategies such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and imagery can help. Because we can pay attention to only one thing at a time, distraction can be very useful.

Even during the procedure, realistic self-talk can make a difference: “it’s worth it,” “it’s for my family,” “I’ll be safer,” I can finally get out again,” or just about any other positive statement is helpful.

Extensive evidence-based research has indicated that for very high levels of fear, exposure therapy is the treatment of choice. People begin by looking at precisely what the fear reaction is based on: is it the needle itself; the sight of blood; the sensation of pain?  Begin by focusing on an image or thought that causes a minor reaction. With guidance and a safe place, people can then look at progressively more fearful images.

By using these strategies, people can learn to overcome their avoidance of needles.

Excerpted from: Charlotte Huff 

American Psychological Association

Vol. 52 No. 4

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