My ongoing battle against trypanophobia

Trypanophobia = a fear of injections.

I have been seeing a hypnotherapist for a couple of months now for my fear of needles. And until now, I’ve been really enjoying the experience. I pay a small sum to lie in a quiet warm room, listening to a soothing voice and taking myself into the most beautiful state of relaxation. I can’t explain how nice it feels when you get right into the light trance state that is induced. Your body feels like it’s going to sink through the bed but your mind floats off, much higher than the room, forgetting that ordinarily the two things are connected. But you have total control over your thoughts and your feelings. And when I leave the building, I’m consumed by an optimism that keeps me feeling positive for several days afterwards. I think I’m a little addicted.

But my session last night was less pleasant. We’re at the stage now where we’re really tackling the bad stuff and, whilst up until now I’ve been progressing really well, I found the session incredibly uncomfortable. When I came round, I realised I had been crying. My hypnotherapist described another person, on a television screen, preparing to give a blood sample. I’ve always known that this would be the hardest part, that this is what I fear the most. Even as I’m typing this, my arms are going dead and I feel sick. I’m acutely aware of the blood pumping through my veins on the inside of my elbows and it almost hurts.

It took us an hour last night for me to even begin to feel comfortable with this situation. It took a good twenty minutes for me to accept the image of a nurse wiping antiseptic on the person’s arm. Before there was any needle involved at all. I can’t even begin to think how long it will take me to get over the idea of it happening to me. I suppose I knew that it would get harder before it would get easier but I’m starting to feel a little frustrated about it. Because, rationally, I know that there is nothing to be scared of. Having a blood sample taken is not pleasant but people do it every day. What’s the problem?

But it makes sense that I should be scared of it. Wikipedia has this to say about phobias:
Phobias are more often than not linked to the amygdala, an area of the brain located behind the pituitary gland in the limbic system. The amygdala secretes hormones that control fear and aggression, and aids in the interpretation of this emotion in the facial expressions of others. When the fear or aggression response is initiated, the amygdala releases hormones into the body to put the human body into an “alert” state, in which they are ready to move, run, fight, etc.”

So, effectively, what my brain is doing is telling me I shouldn’t let someone stick a needle in me and take my blood. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. The horrible bit is that, in my case, this then causes a rapid drop in blood pressure and I either sweat a lot and pass out or just want to throw up.

P.S. Wikipedia also says that treatments such as hypnotherapy are completely ineffective against trypanophobia because they encourage complete relaxation which in turn mimics the drop in blood pressure experienced as a result of the phobia. Fuck.

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5 thoughts on “My ongoing battle against trypanophobia

  1. Yes your brain is associating an injection with fear but only because that’s the association you have, right? See/think needle > fear response. It’s not that it’s unreasonable, the mechanics of what is happening are indisputable. However, surely the point is you need to learn/teach yourself that it isn’t bad? Essentially the basis of CBT (scroll down a bit). Is that how the hypnotherapy works? As you’re aware, rationally there isn’t anything to be scared of.

    (I can completely associate with the feeling your arms though, when I get stressed or anxious I become more aware of my left arm.)

  2. I think I have trypanophobia too. Not as bad as you, it sounds, but I am utterly awful with needles. Two nurses had to hold me down so I could be given a general anaesthetic a couple of years back. Nightmare. Despite wiki saying that hypnotherapy is no use, you are finding the benefits in other ways in relation to work etc though, so it’s surely worth sticking with.

  3. Omar – yes, it’s a bit like that. I relax completely and associate images with positive affirmations, like “I am fully in control” and “I am confident and without fear”. And when I get uncomfortable with a situation, she gets me to imagine myself in a place where I feel calm and safe. Then, when I imagine the situation again, I keep those feelings of calm and safety. I have two places – a part of the Forest of Dean that I like and a room with an open fire, a big armchair and a lot of books.

    Rob – thanks, you’re right 🙂

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