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  • karlrollison

Needles – the number 1 phobia in the world!

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

[This is an excerpt from my book 'The Needle Phobia Handbook']

Forget spiders, heights, clowns, public speaking, crowds, opens spaces or confined spaces...a lot of research around the world lays the title of ‘World number 1 phobia’ firmly at the feet of the humble needle. I mean, let’s face it...

Only drug addicts and those with a needle fetish actually enjoy being stabbed with a sliver of stainless steel. The rest of us put up with it as a necessity, a means to an end.

I’ve been trying to raise awareness of needle phobias for a long time now. It all started many years ago when I witnessed a close, otherwise very confident, family member having an extreme phobic reaction to an imminent, urgent batch of blood tests. I quickly helped her resolve this and it’s no longer an issue but it grabbed my attention and started me on my path. I’ve now helped hundreds of people around the world and I’ve also conducted various desk and field research into Trypanophobia. The results are really interesting...

Why it’s such a mystery.

The reason people don’t realise the extent of Trypanophobia is simply because it’s not

widely reported. The very essence of the phobia makes it difficult for accurate data collation. Allow me to expand with a very simple but horrifying truth:

Some people (that might include you too) would rather die from health issues than receive urgent medical intervention. Also, these same people may well succumb to advance terminal illness that could have been detected earlier with a simple batch of blood tests.

Eventually these people could be rushed to hospital for emergency intervention but the doctors will deal with the issue not the cause (unless it’s too late of course). They won’t record the fact that the reason the situation got so bad was due to an extreme fear of needles. Also, if the poor patient dies due to complications, and are being examined by a coroner, their deaths won’t be recorded as ‘death due to Trypanophobia’ but instead ‘natural causes’ or ‘undetermined’.

One of the best pieces of research into the effects of needle phobia was carried out by the American supermarket chain ‘Target’ in 2013. They commissioned the research agency ‘Harris Interactive’ to conduct an online survey to ascertain why 60,000 Americans annually refuse the Flu jab. They discovered that a staggering 23% of participants admitted avoiding the jab. The reason? Trypanophobia! If that figure is a global representation then...


If you’ve read any of my other books you’ll know that my mantra is:

“Knowledge is power”

In other words, to understand how something works removes the fear of it. So now you know that you’re certainly not alone! If you meet four people then the chances are that one of them could share your phobia, maybe not to your extent, but it could still be a cause of massive anxiety for them. This fact alone should make you feel better. Also, it arms you with a powerful retort if anyone ever questions your phobia:

“Well, actually it’s the number one phobia on the planet and a lot of research suggests that it’s the biggest cause of premature deaths in the World! So you can shut up!” (That last bit is optional).

Why you have this phobia – Learned behaviour.

No one is born with a Trypanophobia. In fact humans are only actually pre-programmed with two fears: falling and loud noises. The rest are actually learned as we go along. Kids are learning machines and childhood is where we acquire most of our fears and anxieties for the future. I had a phobia of flushing toilets until I was a teenager. Like most disasters in life it was a series of freak events that formed mine. I’d watched a stupid film about a man who drowns after getting trapped in a bathroom that fills with water. This coincided with my dad decorating. He’d loosened the handles of the doors in between coats of gloss and by shear chance (unbeknown to me) the toilet was blocked. So I innocently flushed the toilet and water started flowing over the edge of the pan, in my panic to escape, the door handle came off in my hand. I can still remember it really clearly and it’s still one of the scariest moments of my life (and I’ve been in some VERY volatile situations). My dad (a tough master butcher from East London) heard my screams. He opened the door to find his hysterical young son with tears running down his cheeks and scratches and dents on his newly painted doors. I can still remember the look of pride on his face...

I lived with my phobia until I decided to get rid of it and I did it by using (ironically enough) a process called ‘Flooding’. This is a psychotherapeutic method of placing yourself in an extreme situation with the phobia front and centre. In my situation I stayed in a hotel that had a full wet room with a toilet and bidet. I spent a few hours flooding the toilet until I had no reaction at all. I would NEVER recommend this method. When I help people with stress, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, trauma or extreme negative memories (whether I use hypnosis or not) I am constantly monitoring them. I observe every aspect of their being. I will take someone to an extreme but in a controlled manner. You’re probably thinking, well what could go wrong? Well, a lot. I was inexperienced when I tackled my fear and did the whole thing standing up, by myself. I could have experienced ‘Vasovagal Syncope’. This is fainting triggered by an extreme event which causes a massive change in blood pressure. The bathroom is definitely NOT the environment you want to do that in, it’s not considered the most dangerous room in the house for nothing!

So, an innocent little boy, in the wrong place at the wrong time, chose my particular phobia for me. Children, ALL children, are learning machines and a great way of learning what NOT to do is via pain and discomfort. But as a matter of course what do all kids HAVE to endure?

· They need a whole host of vaccinations including Rubella, Measles, Mumps, Meningitis, Tetanus and Diphtheria.

· Milk teeth and wisdom teeth can cause complications so the dentist is required.

· Kids love sweets, so this invariably leads to cavities that requires another trip to the dentist.

· Kids usually have to endure some form of health issue.

· Youth is definitely a great time for broken bones and stitches.

So, all of these things are painful, uncomfortable and stressful and they usually all start with the same thing – an injection. Just like Ivan Pavlov’s dog knew it was dinner time when he rang a bell, the children associate the tiny shaft of stainless steel (which in itself isn’t painful) with extreme pain and discomfort.

Why you have this phobia – Evolution.

OK, so even though we aren’t born with a needle phobia we can still be instinctively wary of them because of what they represent – they are an object that is used to compromise the integrity of our skin, our outer protection against the external environment. Think about it, for millions of years, even BEFORE we were humans, any scratch or open cut could be potentially life threatening. The only thing we had in our defence was the efficiency of our own immune systems. It was only when Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin in the early part of the 20th Century that an infection didn’t necessarily mean a death sentence.

ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is something that has provoked tears in the past from my frustrated and anxious clients and it’s reminiscent of the powerful scenes between two fantastic actors in one of the best films of all time... In ‘Good Will Hunting’ Robin Williams tells Matt Damon:



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