Why do I have an extreme fear of needles?

Needling fear!


Also in this week's column:

Why do I have an extreme fear of needles?

Asked by Nicole Rothman of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Belonephobia is the extreme fear of needles. If you have this, you fear getting medications via injections, vaccinations, even testing your blood. You are probably terrified of the prospect of having surgery performed on you. You may even have great difficulty going to the dentist because of what the dentist may do to your teeth and gums with needles.

Belonephobia is surprisingly common. Up to 10 per cent of people suffer from some degree of belonephobia. This is according to Dr Louisa Yim, a general practitioner from Wantirna, Victoria, Australia. Dr Yim also writes in the Australian Family Physician (August 2006) of a skin cancer patient who needed minor surgery, but the patient was belonephobic and so avoided getting the skin cancer removed. The skin cancer doubled in size.

Pregnancy poses great problems for a belonephobic since so many antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum medical procedures involve needles. This is according to a team of five researchers from the School of Nursing at Western Michigan University led by Dr K Searing. They describe in the Journal of Obsteric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing (September-October 2006) the case of a 21-year-old woman who faced great difficulties dealing with both her pregnancy and her belonephobia.

One of the more interesting theories as to why people develop belonephobia was put forward by Dr J G Hamilton of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Keele in Staffordshire, UK. Dr Hamilton writes in the Journal of Family Practice (August 1995) that the cause of belonephobia "lies in an inherited vasovagal reflex of shock, triggered by needle puncture. Those who inherit this reflex often learn to fear needles through successive needle exposure".

Thus, belonephobia is both inherited and learned. Belonephobia often appears with both dental phobia and blood phobia (hematophobia). Belonephobia is from the Greek word "belone" which means "needle" - makes sense. The point's been made.

Interesting facts

Belonephobics face difficulties in many realms of life. For example, while driving and when stopped for suspected DUI, a driver may have to undergo a blood test. According to Drs M M Stark and N Brener of the Forensic Medicine Unit at the St George Hospital Medical School in London, writing in the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine (March, 2000), courts are unlikely to allow belonephobia as legal grounds for refusing the blood test.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au


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