Fear of injections (trypanophobia): causes, symptoms and consequences

One of the most common extreme fears, which is not only present in children, it’s injection phobia or trypanophobia. We certainly all know someone who feels this great fear of getting a vaccine or having a simple blood test.

Trypanophobes are having a terrible time when they need to have an injection and go to a health center. And in many cases, they can even avoid these situations regardless of risking their lives (by not getting vaccinated against diseases like tetanus) or reducing pain or inflammation with corticosteroids.

    What is injection phobia

    a phobia it is an intense, irrational and persistent fear towards certain situations, objects, activities or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive desire to avoid the stimulus that causes great anxiety, and in the case of trypanophobia, that phobic stimulus is the needles and the ability to receive injections. This phobia is one of the most common, it is estimated that around 10% of the population suffers from it to some extent.

    Sometimes trypanophobia can be confused with fear of blood (hematophobia) or fear of sharp objects (aicmophobia); however, the fear of injections can only be a great fear of these objects, and people with trypanophobia do not necessarily experience fear of blood or other sharp objects.

    There are different types of phobias, which are generally grouped into three groups. trypanophobia would be included in specific phobias which are generally fears of certain objects or situations. Some specific phobic stimuli are spiders, snakes, elevators, or flight.

    Related article: “Types of phobias: exploring fear disorders”

    Other types of phobias

    In addition to this group of phobias, also called simple phobias, there are two others that are social phobias, Involving other people or social situations such as exercise anxiety, fear of shame, or humiliation or appreciation of others; and agoraphobia is the fear of having a panic attack in a place or situation where the person feels unprotected. These last two phobias are generally considered to be complex phobias.

    Causes of trypanophobia

    Fear of injections usually develops during childhood and in many cases, it usually persists into adulthood. Its cause is often a traumatic experience in childhood or adolescence, and although they do not really interfere with the injections, these people interpret it as a serious threat to their physical integrity. It’s not that they think they are going to die from the injection, but that the pain will be so bad that they won’t even be able to take it.

    Learning about this fear usually occurs through something called classical conditioning, a type of associative learning that was originally studied by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist, but made behaviorist John B. Watson, because he believed humans could learn strong emotions. by conditioning them and then generalizing them to similar situations.

    To do this, he designed a series of experiments with children, and in one of them he taught a small child, named Albert, to be afraid of a white rat he adored. at the beginning. This experiment could not be carried out at this time because it is considered unethical. You can see it in the video below:

    Other causes of this phobia

    This phobia many times it can be developed by vicarious conditioning, In other words, by observation. For example, in the event that a child sees an adult panicking during the injection, or to watch a movie in which injections or syringes appear.

    Some theorists also believe that the causes may be genetic; and others that we are predisposed to suffer from certain phobias. In fact, the latter theory claims that it is easy to associate certain stimuli with fear because it is an adaptive emotion that has helped the human species to survive. In this way, phobic disorders are formed by primitive and non-cognitive associations, Which are not easily changed by logical arguments.

      Symptoms of fear of injections

      Fear of injections has the same symptoms as any phobia, where there is a predominance of anxiety and discomfort and an exaggerated attempt to avoid situations in which the phobic stimulus may appear.

      The symptoms of trypanophobia are:

      • cognitive symptoms: Fear and anxiety in front of needles and the possibility of receiving an injection, anxiety, confusion, lack of concentration, irrational thoughts …
      • behavioral symptoms: Avoid any situation in which the person may receive an injection.
      • physical symptoms: Increased pulse, hyperventilation, stomach pain and nausea, suffocation, dry mouth, etc.


      The treatment for phobias is similar in most cases, and psychological therapy, According to research, has a high degree of effectiveness. There are different currents which may be useful in the treatment of trypanophobia; however, cognitive behavioral therapy appears to provide the best results. This type of therapy aims to modify internal events (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, etc.) and behaviors considered to be the causes of the discomfort.

      This is why different techniques are used, in particular relaxation techniques (particularly indicated for specific moments when the person experiences great anxiety). and systematic desensitization, Which is a type of exposure technique in which, as the name suggests, the patient is gradually exposed to the phobic stimulus. He also learns different coping strategies that allow him to see with his own eyes that his fears and anxieties are irrational.

      To treat this phobia it is also possible to use cognitive therapy based on mindfulness or acceptance and engagement therapy, both of which belong to third generation therapies, and do not seek to modify behavior but to accept the experience, which automatically reduces symptomatology because there is no resistance to the facts. This is the conclusion of the latest scientific studies, which seem to indicate that this methodology is particularly useful for treating anxiety disorders, such as if we intend to modify our internal events or behaviors, a rebound effect occurs and anxiety symptoms increase.

      In occasional and extreme cases, they may administer anxiolytics; however, still on the side of psychotherapy.

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