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Fear of injections in diabetes

Fear is usually meant to protect us from pain and injury. A fear of injections is something you should discuss with your nurse.

Fears related to injections and needles are quite commonplace. It is natural for a human being to instinctively want to avoid pain as well as any measure involving pucturing, piercing or ulceration of skin, or any tissue damage in general. However, in diabetes, the fear of injections can make self-management harder. In this case, the fear does not keep you safe – it is actually harmful to you. Simply the thought of a needle may make you nervous and create strong emotional or physical reactions.

There may be many reasons behind the fear

Some react physically to a stressful, unpleasant or scary situation with a higher pulse rate or lower blood pressure, which is experienced as a feeling of dizziness and feebleness when the blood escapes to the lower limbs. The anticipation of this feeling adds to the fear of injections, which in turn may strengthen the physical reaction in the injection situation. Ultimately, it may be difficult to say which one is stronger, the fear of fainting or the fear of injections.

The fear of injections may also be related to a previous traumatic event, as a result of which needles are associated with the strong negative sensations related to the original event, the anticipation of pain or even panic. Sometimes, all it takes is seeing someone else in pain, for example, as a result of a procedure performed by a doctor. The fear of needles may also be linked to a previous experience of being physically forced or held. A situation resembling the original may automatically invoke a sensitivity to pain.

The presence of a close, trusted person and chatting to draw attention away from the injection – as well as understanding the reasons behind the fear of needles – can help you control your fear. The sense of control can be reinforced by practising a relaxation technique to lessen the feeling of pain before the injection as well as learning the correct injection technique. Psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and drug treatment can also be considered as help to control the fear of injections. Negative thinking and wallowing in fear make it worse. If possible, instead of anticipating the fear and pain, try to focus on the way the injections help you take care of your health and protect you from things that are much worse than the injection in itself.

The following exercise may come handy in tricky situations to help control your physical reactions and fear. Sit comfortably. Tense the muscles in your arms, legs and upper body and keep them tense for 10–15 seconds or until you turn red in the face. Let your muscles relax for 30 seconds and then tense them again for 10–15 seconds. Continue to tense and relax your muscles five times.

List some of the issues related to your fear of needles that cause a fear reaction in you and rate them on a scale of 1–10 based on their severity. Value 10 equals maximum fear. For example, thinking about injection 3/10, looking at an image of someone being injected 4/10, watching when someone else is injecting 7/10, the actual injection 10/10. Start with the least scary thing and expose yourself to it. When your anxiety grows, try to perform the first exercise or breathe slowly to calm down your mind and body. Keep doing the exercise until the anxiety has clearly eased off, relax and give yourself a pat on the back. Progress in the “fear hierarchy” at your own pace. There is no need to rush. Do not expose yourself to your greatest fear until you feel that you are better able to cope with the less scary issues.

Updated 8.11.2023