Fear Of Needles (belonephobia): Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

It is one of the most common phobias, closely linked to problems with health and hospitals.

One of the main reasons for attending psychological therapy is phobic disorders, and among these, one of the most common is the fear of needles. In fact, some studies claim that up to 10% of the population suffers from this phobia. 

Although it is true that needles can cause pain if they are used violently, the phobia of needles or belonephobia is characterized by the fact that the person suffers an irrational terror and great anxiety that can become disabling.

Belonephobia causes, for example, that an individual is unable to go to a health center due to the unreal fear they feel towards these objects. One of the characteristic symptoms of phobias is that the phobic individual tries to avoid the stimulus that causes this discomfort reaction.

In this article we will delve into the characteristics of fear of needles and we will repair what are its causes, its symptoms and its consequences.

What is the fear of needles

For many people, the fear of needles only manifests itself at specific times, for example, when one must be vaccinated. However, for other individuals, it may appear more frequently, imagine when someone is diabetic and must inject insulin.

The fear of needles is a phobia, and therefore belongs to the group of anxiety disorders. It is an intense, irrational and persistent fear towards some situations in which the phobic stimulus may be present, that is, needles, but also towards syringes and the possibility of receiving injections, just like trypanophobia or fear of injections.

Belonephobia is also often associated and often confused with  fear of blood (hematophobia) or  fear of sharp objects (aichmophobia). Of course, these people do not necessarily experience fear of blood and other sharp objects, which serves to distinguish between belonephobia, aicmophobia and hematophobia.

This type of phobia belongs to specific phobic disorders that are generally fears of certain objects or situations. For example: cats, spiders, snakes or the fear of flying. 


Phobias are usually learned fears. These fears develop through a type of associative learning called classical conditioning, after a traumatic event. For example, after having a bad experience with needles.

In fact, the scientific community is in favor of the idea that phobias are learned, and one of the figures who has contributed the most in this regard is John Watson, an American psychologist who in the 1920s caused a boy named Albert to develop an irrational fear of a white rat he previously adored.

The objective of the experiment was to observe the emotional reactions of the child, who at first played with the animal normally. However, throughout the sessions, the rat was presented together with a loud noise that scared the little one. After several presentations of both stimuli together, little Albert was developing fear of the rat even without the presence of the loud noise.

If you want to know more about this type of learning, you can read this article: ” Classical conditioning and its most important experiments.”

Other causes of this phobia

But phobias can also be learned by observation, in what is known as  vicarious conditioning. That is, the person can see how an individual screams when they are going to give an injection and can develop a strong fear of needles.

Other authors affirm that human beings are biologically predisposed to suffer from phobias, since fear is an adaptive emotion that has been key to our survival because it provokes a fight or flight response. That is why fear has to do with the primitive areas of the brain and is developed by primitive and non-cognitive associations. In other words, they are not modifiable by logical arguments.

Symptoms and signs

This type of phobia can appear in different situations. For example:

  • Seeing needles
  • By having contact with nurses and doctors
  • When hurting yourself and anticipating injections
  • When visiting the dentist
  • Being near a medical center or hospital
  • When using clothes pins
  • See needles on television
  • The smell of antiseptic reminiscent of a hospital

When the person suffering from this phobia finds himself in any of these situations, he experiences a series of cognitive, behavioral and physical symptoms. They are as follows:

  • Cognitive symptoms : irrational thoughts, anguish, anxiety, extreme fear, thoughts of impending death, confusion, lack of concentration, etc.
  • Behavioral symptoms : attempt to avoid the feared stimulus.
  • Physical : headache, shortness of breath, stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, etc.

Treatment of belonephobia

Although this type of phobia is very common, it also has a high success rate in terms of treatment, according to scientific studies. There are different psychological therapies that work, but the most used is cognitive behavioral therapy.

This form of therapy uses different techniques, and to treat phobias, the most effective are relaxation techniques and exposure techniques. A technique that combines both is  systematic desensitization, which consists of gradually exposing the patient to the phobic stimulus, but first they must have learned different coping strategies, such as the aforementioned relaxation techniques.

Other very effective types of therapy are cognitive therapy based on Mindfulness or acceptance and commitment therapy, which belong to the third generation therapy. If you want to know more about these therapeutic methods, you can read the article “ What are third generation therapies? ”.

New technologies and phobias

New technologies are also used to improve the quality of life of people with phobias. Online therapy is being used more and more, and virtual reality has proven to be very effective as an exposure method. In fact, there are even different mobile apps that are designed to help people who suffer from a phobic disorder.

You can learn more in the article “ 8 apps to treat phobias and fears from your smartphone ”.


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