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Extreme anxiety/fear of blood, blood tests, iv's... [long, sorry :( ]

F

Ferrari

New member
Joined
Jan 12, 2019
Messages
1
#1
Hello everyone,
I'm sorry to bother you all with something that I'm sure you've heard a thousand times, but I've read a lot of webpages and some forum posts (here and elsewhere) and I was hoping making a post myself might help as it's more specific? If that makes sense!
I'll try to condense this down as much as possible...

I have an extreme fear/anxiety of blood, blood tests, IV's and needles. It's got to a point where I know I can't ignore it and I don't know how to overcome it.
I have no idea where this fear has come from, I just know I've always had it. Ironically I wanted to be a vet growing up so this made it rather difficult.
I have not (to my knowledge!) had a bad experience with needles etc personally as I haven't had any need to be 'stabbed' with them (as I jokingly refer to it) since I was a very young child. Until recently, anyway.
I have had fairly frequent exposure however as my brother (who I am carer for) has several illnesses and requires frequent blood tests etc.
The first time he had one with me present (not sure how old I was, a little before my teens?) I unexpectedly went very lightheaded. I already knew I didn't much like blood but wasn't expecting this. To make things worse my brother was in a lot of pain (nurses were a bit rough and couldn't get blood!) and I empathised with him, perhaps a little too much.
Apparently the fact that I was approaching passing out was somehow evident as my dad drew attention to it (thanks..) and the nurses made me leave the room straight away. From there on I had to try to avoid seeing my brother get blood tests and it made things awkward.

I wanted to get over this fear so gradually began my own sort of exposure therapy (I guess you'd call it?) by being present in the room but not looking, eventually glancing and trying to force myself to watch whilst making a conscious effort to take deep but fairly normal breaths.
I got to a point where a lot of the time I could watch most or all of it.
I have a similar problem with IV's and needles in general but it's slightly less severe. Blood (not involving needles) is almost as much of a problem for me, be it my own or someone elses. I do seem to be more sensitive to seeing my own but it can happen just as easily with someone else. Anything more than a papercut and I'm in trouble. I cut my finger with a knife a couple of years back and passed out pretty quickly. Same last year when I cut myself on some jagged metal. I'm actually pleased with myself if I manage to cut myself and not pass out! (What a stupid thing to be pleased about!)
Long story short I've been trying to control this for a while and I think (or thought) I had made some progress, albeit not much. There are reasons that I probably should have had a blood test by now that I won't go into but until this week had got to the age of 26 without it ever being essential that I have one. Same with needles (minus vaccinations etc as a kid which I barely remember).
A month ago I had a severely infected tooth requiring extraction which obviously involved injection. Unfortunately this was apparently the most painful dental injection into the roof of the mouth. Considering I had to have about 6 injections (may have been more, I lost count) before getting somewhat numb (not completely, ended up feeling I'd guess roughly 40% of the extraction but it was less painful than the injections at that point!) and managed to do that initially without passing out. I did come very close afterwards, though the dentist said it was probably becuse I'd had no food. I am highly anxious of injections but I think can just about cope if absolutely necessary.

Fast forward to this week (cutting a long story short) I end up with my first ever visit to A&E with quinsy. I was sent with the understanding that the pus in the abscess on my tonsils would need to be drained. Reluctantly I agreed, dreading more needles. When I arrived however I was told they would be starting with a blood test. That's when the panic set in as it hadn't even occured to me that a blood test would be involved. Immediately I said no, sorry, I can't do that and explained why. A lot of to-and-froing with two nurses made it clear this was essential. Still I said no. Eventually one talked me around to trying and the whole time I wanted to back out. Eventually she came in and used a numb spray and even put me on gas as at this point I'd had a panic attack before the needle even went in. As with the only two other kinds of anaesthetic I've ever had, the 'numb' spray did nothing. The needle was very painful (though I didn't know why, at that point my eyes were closed) but it was the thought of what was happening that bothered me more than the pain. I don't know if I actually passed out or not, every sense shut down except my hearing as I heard the nurse keep telling me to breathe. It seemed like an eternity and I had a very disassociative experience, feeling very removed from the situation. I think the gas possibly kept me from going all the way but I'm not really sure.
When I started to come back around I learned that they weren't able to get any blood after all.
They wanted me on an i/v as I was very dehydrated (having barely drunk for two days due to the pain and physical difficulty swallowing) and to try again for the blood using a scan to find the veins. At that point I'd had enough, I'd worked up the courage to try it once and I couldn't go through it again. The thought of having an i/v was almost equally terrifying (a quick injection I might be able to deal with, maybe, but something stuck in there for an extended period of time.. Not so much..)
I ended up just saying no, I can't deal with it anymore I'm really sorry. I felt terrible, they'd been so good and I feel like I've wasted their precious time that could have been used on someone else. Long story short the infection is nearly gone thanks to huge doses of oral antibiotics (they decided against draining it as it wasn't quite 'ready' to be drained in the ENT's opinion) but I've been left feeling that I really need to conquer this stupid, irrational fear. On top of that I've been having chest pain ever since (cardiac problems apparently can be a complication, which is partly why they wanted the blood test) but I'm far too fearful to go back because it's a blood test they'll want.
I need to get over this but I just don't know how. None of it makes any sense, nor does the fact that I can watch surgery on tv/youtube with no problem (I love veterinary shows and have no problem watching them!) including injections, blood draws etc. I have several rabbits and regularly watch them get injections (again, no problem). I have seen small amounts of blood taken from them for tests and that did cause problems though I didn't pass out.
I just don't know what to do. I need to beat this because one day I really will need to have a blood test and I'm afraid that my recent experience has made things worse because it's everything I thought it would be, and a bit worse. I feel that if I can beat that the other fears will go with it as they're all related in my head.
Even if I wanted to I genuinely could not afford any kind of therapy etc.
There must be a way I can deal with this on my own..?

I'm sorry for the novel-lenth post. I thought it was important to have all the details because I've read so many things now and nothing's helped.
Has anyone ever beaten this? How can I do it?
Thank you so much for anyone that has taken the time to get this far.
-S
 
calypso

calypso

Well-known member
Admin
Moderator
Joined
Jan 5, 2011
Messages
39,253
Location
Lancashire
#2
Hiya and :welcome: to the forum. This is a real problem for you I can see that. Have you ever had any therapy? I was wondering about hypnosis to help. It is just a thought, it doesn't work for everyone but worth a try? I think you need a phobia expert to try and fid a way through this, but in the meantime what about talking with your doctor about having some valium on you just for use when you need it for this? Just a thought and it depends whether he would agree.
 
Bizzarebitrary

Bizzarebitrary

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
208
Location
California, US
#3
I have a needle phobia and I'm especially afraid of blood draws seeing my own blood makes me feel lightheaded and ill. I must get an IV every 4-6 weeks so I had go work on it. It was a process and it requires patience and intention on my part but I can now deal with needles without feeling like I need to defend myself, violently.

I'm able to trace my phobia back to a time in my childhood when I had an awfully traumatic experience at a medical center. I remember only bits, flashes I was so young. My brother was there and he remembers it.

There are therapeutic treatments and skills to overcome such phobias, you sort of tried exposure therapy but not effectively, it needs to happen on your schedule and more frequently and with a therapist who helps you process the trauma.

I urge you to consult with a therapist. I don't know what your medical coverage is that you cannot receive any mental health care? This phobia threatens physical health as you are avoiding care and tests that can prevent illness as well as diagnose. Given this, Medical authorities can offer you some low or no cost mental health care, no?

This phobia is not something to blame yourself over, if you could "get over it", surely you would. Give yourself some compassion, you aren't being silly and anyone who suggests so is ignorant and can be ignored. What's happening is occurring in the amygdala and is beyond your conscious control. Theres no wishing it away it's a survival function. It can be trained not to take over.

Thank you for sharing this and for the detail, I always feel better knowing others also experience needle phobia. Let us know more details about mental health care available to you. Maybe I can also offer some self help skills to practice.