Trypanophobia: definition, symptoms, characteristics, treatment


Trypanophobia is a type of phobia that involves severe fear of needles or anxiety about injections and medical care involving the use of needles. This can be problematic both because of the symptoms and because some people delay or avoid necessary medical attention due to fear and anxiety. Trypanophobia is also sometimes called needle phobia.

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The most telling symptom of trypanophobia is an extreme aversion to needles, sometimes severe enough to interfere with seeking and accepting medical care, or interfering with life. There are other symptoms as well, including physical symptoms.

Symptoms of trypanophobia

  • Aversion to needles
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Concern before medical or dental procedures
  • Treatment and avoidance of medical or dental care
  • Feeling of intense fear or anxiety about the idea of ​​injections
  • Aggression before or during procedures involving needles
  • Sudden increase in heart rate then decrease
  • Sudden increase in blood pressure then decrease
  • Respiratory changes
  • Sweat
  • Trembling
  • Tears
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain intensified with injections


Trypanophobia can be present in all genders, children and adults. It can be diagnosed by a mental health care provider such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

To be diagnosed, the fear of injections must:

  • Be consistent or arrive almost every time the person faces injections
  • Being considered disproportionate to social norms
  • Lead to avoid injections, intense anxiety with injections
  • Last six months or more
  • Not to be caused by something else


It is estimated that about 3.5-10% of people suffer from trypanophobia; 80 percent of people with trypanophobia also have a close relative who has injection phobia. There may be a genetic component to the phobia.

Another cause is a previous traumatic experience with injections, possibly a response that causes them to pass out or almost pass out. There may be an evolutionary response to the dangers of sharp objects puncturing the skin. The cause of trypanophobia depends in part on the type.


There are several types of trypanophobia, the characteristics and causes of which vary:

  • Vasovagal trypanophobia
  • Associative trypanophobia
  • Resistive trypanophobia
  • Hyperalgesic trypanophobia
  • Vicarious trypanophobia

Vasovagal trypanophobia

Vasovagal trypanophobia is a type of trypanophobia that involves a vasovagal reaction. A vasovagal reaction occurs when a person experiences a sudden increase and then a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. Changes in heart rate and blood pressure can cause fainting.

It is not entirely clear whether the vasovagal response causes vasovagal trypanophobia or whether trypanophobia causes the vasovagal response. However, it is believed that this fainting response is hereditary and then leads to a phobia of injections due to their association with the negative experience of fainting, which creates a cycle. In extremely rare cases, this type of trypanophobia can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Associative trypanophobia

Associative trypanophobia is a type of trypanophobia associated with a traumatic event. A person with this fear of injections may have had an extremely painful medical procedure or had a severe reaction to a previous injection, for example. Less commonly, the person with Associative Trypanophobia may have been with someone else who has had a medical procedure or an extremely painful injection reaction.

Regardless of the specific details, this type of injection phobia is caused by an association between the injections and a negative experience.

Resistive trypanophobia

Resistive trypanophobia is a type of trypanophobia that involves the fear of being controlled. The cause could be previous experiences with needles that required them to be restrained, most often during childhood.

Some people with this type of trypanophobia may become aggressive or violent when in situations involving injections, which may require them to be restrained to avoid injuring themselves or others. In this type of trypanophobia, there is a fear of both the needle and control or restraint.

Hyperalgesic trypanophobia

Hyperalgesic trypanophobia is a type of trypanophobia related to increased sensation of physical pain or increased sensitivity to physical pain. Children tend to experience physical pain from injections more intensely than adults.

The increased sensitivity or pain caused by the needles and the associated fear can also be caused or intensified by injury, inflammation, stress, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, chronic illnesses, or adverse experiences of the patient. childhood. With this type of trypanophobia, the fear of injections has more to do with physical pain than the actual needle or injection.

Vicarious trypanophobia

Vicarious trypanophobia is a type of trypanophobia that involves extreme fear of injections when someone else meets the needle.

A person with indirect trypanophobia may experience the same symptoms as other types of trypanophobia, including a vasovagal response, when they witness another person receiving an injection. Likewise, trypanophobia can be caused by seeing someone else have a traumatic experience with a needle or a medical procedure.


Treatment options for trypanophobia include therapy and medication. There are also coping strategies that can help prevent fears and anxieties and reduce their severity when they arise.


Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is an effective psychotherapeutic treatment often used for trypanophobia. It involves strategies that take into account the connections between thoughts, behaviors and emotions.

This treatment may also include systematic desensitization therapy (i.e., exposure therapy), which uses increasing levels of fear exposure in a safe and controlled environment to reduce the fear response. Hypnosis has also been shown to be effective.


When needles are needed, sometimes medication is applied to the skin first so that the pain sensation is lessened or not felt at all. When sedation is required for an operation or procedure, the patient may be sedated before any needle is used. However, this can increase the problem because the patient does not have the control or the ability to overcome the phobia.

Medications are generally avoided to treat phobias because psychotherapy options tend to be more effective and do not come with side effects. When drugs are used, it is usually for short term use. Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, or beta blockers are sometimes prescribed for anxiety.

To face

Relaxation techniques are recommended for dealing with trypanophobia, except in people with vasovagal trypanophobia. Indeed, relaxation techniques can decrease heart rate and blood pressure.

A word from Verywell

Trypanophobia can be a frightening and overwhelming experience. It is also a serious medical problem. Without treatment, you delay needed medical attention.

Talk to your doctor about how to receive care without needles or with minimal use of needles. Depending on your medical needs, needle injections may not be necessary. If needles are needed for your care, there are adjustment and treatment options to help you overcome trypanophobia and get the care you need.


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