Ask anyone and they will likely tell you that they hate needles, and for an estimated 10% of American adults, this fear is a true phobia. Needle phobia can induce anxiety attacks that may exert physical symptoms like dizziness, nausea, chest pain, a racing heart and even fainting.
Many times, these physical symptoms are enough to keep people from getting important lab work, vaccines, or medical care altogether, which can significantly affect your whole health in the long run.
After all, routine lab work allows your doctor to get a picture of your whole health. It can help identify risk for heart disease or diabetes, manage current conditions, and reveal vitamin deficiencies and other important conditions.
So if some needle anxiety is preventing you from making that needed doctor or lab appointment, lean on hope instead of fear.
We’re here to help with some strategies to enter your next lab test feeling calm, centered and empowered.
Zulay Gomez, phlebotomist at AdventHealth Winter Garden, formerly Florida Hospital Winter Garden, explains how her 25 years of experience brings expertise in helping ease the mind, while promoting the whole health of her anxious patients.
What Causes Fear of Needles
“A fear of needles is very common in all ages, from children to older populations,” says Gomez.
She explains that the fear generally arises from:
- Past experiences that haven’t gone well
- The fear of the needle breaking in the arm during the lab draw
- The sight of blood
- The thought of having something foreign in your arm
There is a spectrum of fear that patients can feel, too, she says. “Some patients are just mildly anxious, while others have a serious and true phobia.”
“Depending on their anxiety level, they can pass out,” says Gomez. “When their fear is greater than what they can control, it can feel overwhelming and consuming.”
A true needle phobia (trypanophobia) is rare. “Patients with a true phobia may experience more extreme physical symptoms when they need a lab draw, and we always prepare and take precaution to make these patients as comfortable and relaxed as possible,” explains Gomez.
How to Reduce Your Fear of Needles
“Generally, when patients have a fear of needles, they will let me know, but I also ask patients right away how they’re feeling, so I can personalize my strategies to help them through their phlebotomy appointment” Gomez says.
Here are some strategies Zulay Gomez says are very successful in helping her more fearful patients.
- Feel at Home— One way that Gomez helps her patients is to help them feel more at home, by offering them the option to lie back in a reclining chair. “This often helps them relax and feel more comfortable. It also keeps their environment safe if they do feel like they will pass out,” says Gomez.
- Engage in Conversation— Gomez explains, “One major practice that I use is to engage in conversation from the beginning of the lab appointment all the way to the end.” This helps patients to concentrate on the conversation and positive aspects of their life over the fear.
- Prepare— When you feel anxious about your blood draw, the last thing you want to do is watch the phlebotomist fiddle with the needles. That’s why Gomez has everything prepared before her patients enter her care, so she can deliver patient care as quickly (and painlessly) as possible.
- Don’t Rush- “Each patient and their experience are important to us. We don’t rush patients. We take time to help them relax, and we can even pray with our patients if they feel that will help them create a more positive and less stressful experience,” says Gomez.
How AdventHealth Lab Cares for the Whole Person
“It’s great that we can tie in emotional, physical and spiritual health to help our patients.”
Gomez concludes, “I love what I do. I love the art of phlebotomy and my patient care. It’s wonderful when patients request to come back to me because they think I did an awesome job and made them feel as if they received loving and quality care.”