When looking at the top 10 fears, we find things like acrophobia (heights), ophidiophobia (snakes), and cynophobia (dogs).
Sure, falling from a height can be problematic and some snakes are poisonous, but the odds of plummeting from a tall structure—natural or manmade—is quite low and snakes will usually leave you alone if you leave them alone.
Now, we fully understand the role a previous bad experience with a dog can play in leading to cynophobia, but a bad experience with a dog is rarely the dog’s fault. Almost always, the true blame lies with a human.
(Seriously, dogs are awesome and we could all learn a thing or two from them!)
Something else you can find in the top 10 fears is trypanophobia.
What the heck is that?
Trypanophobia is a fear of needles and injections – and it’s more common that you would think. In fact, it’s an even bigger fear than public speaking!
And, as with most fears, this is one you shouldn’t need to worry about (provided the injection is being performed in a professional medical office!). Let’s look at why that is.
To start, it’s worth noting that many people tend to make the injection something much bigger than it actually is in their mind. You just know they walk in thinking “This is going to hurt, it’s going to hurt, it’s going to hurt!” Then a doctor finishes the injection and hears a patient say “That’s it?”
The reason for this psychologic buildup will often stem from either a personal bad experience or hearing about someone else’s.
Thinking about that, we should probably clarify something:
Injections shouldn’t be painful, but the “shouldn’t” modifier is important.
Whereas injections should not cause pain, many physicians are—surprisingly, perhaps—not actually trained in the best techniques for injecting patients.
Yep, you read that correctly: doctors are rarely instructed in how to give injections.
And that is exactly why I teach a workshop on injections for first-year Family Practice residents. After all, using the right technique is everything when it comes to keeping injections as painless as possible. And I want all patients—mine or otherwise—not to have pain from the experience and develop trypanophobia.
When the residents are done with the workshop, they head out in the world, confident in their ability to inject others in the most painless way possible.
With regards to proper technique, a slow injection is going to be better than a rushed one. Why? Because it gives anesthetic a chance to get ahead of the needle – and anesthetic always works (as long as it’s administered in the right spot!).
When local anesthetic is used, the area should become numb right away. To help with this, we adjust the pH balance—and may use a combination of short- and long-acting anesthesia—for optimal results. Between that and a slow, careful injection, we can make the experience as painless as possible.
Further contributing to our recipe for injection success is using syringes that are smaller.
Of course, like a clever magician, we also have a trick up our sleeve – distraction.
There are two different ways we can distract patients when performing an injection. The first isn’t as technologically savvy, but still works better than you would expect – and this is to have a patient tell us a good joke during the process. Often, the injection will be finished well before the punchline hits.
(If you are going to have an injection at your appointment, your challenge is to bring a good joke that will make us laugh.)
(“Dad jokes” tend to work quite well!)
The other, more technological distraction is physical in nature, and it’s something we found at a medical convention a couple of years back. We may use an instrument that has a vibrating element to distract the nerves from realizing that an injection is being given.
When the salesman at the convention made the claim that that’s what his product could do, I tried it out, injected myself and, what do you know, it actually worked like he said! Since it did, the sales rep got my business that day and our patients have been able to benefit – a true win-win.