Monday, August 15, 2011

H-E-L-P! you know I need somebody...

I've spoken before on here about my extreme fear of needles, or trypanophobia - what I haven't shared is that, for the past few months, I have been having some counseling sessions to help me overcome my phobia. Mainly cognitive behavioural therapy, and exposure techniques.

I won't go into the specifics, but what I will say is that, pre-therapy, I:
- could not look at a photo of a syringe
- could not listen to someone talk about needles/blood tests etc
- could not stand to be in a room with a capped needle
- felt nauseous, shaky and panicked anytime I was faced with a scenario involving needles
And the list goes on

Thanks to my counselor, I have recently been able to look at photos of injections and blood tests, handle/touch needles and other needle-related paraphernalia, and, most exciting for me, have a vaccination done without any fuss or hysteria, without even a support person there to hold my hand! I even drove myself to and from the appointment. Sounds like no big deal but, for me, it was huge.

Meet Chubby, my mascot!

My counsellor gave me this highlighter a while back - and at the time, I could barely look at it without feeling ill, let alone play with it. What a difference a few months can make! Now Chubby goes everywhere with me, in my handbag (and does raise some interesting looks at times, which is fun)

I cannot emphasise enough how amazing this process has been for me, and how helpful I am finding it. We still have a way to go, but even if this were as good as its get for me, I would be thrilled with the results.

I know that some may consider this a strange/revealing/embarrassing type of post for a lighthearted little blog like mine - the truth is, I think that admitting you need help with a problem, reaching out to grab the hand that is outstretched to you, is such a beautiful thing, and something to be celebrated, not hidden. I would encourage anyone who suffers from a phobia to seek professional assistance in dealing with it.



  1. what an amazing achievement! you should be really proud of yourself, not just for working through your fears but for sharing them with the rest of us!

    there have been a few times where i felt like i needed to see someone to help me through some "issues" (nothing serious!) but always backed out at the last second because i get too nervous or i decide i'll figure it out on my own. in australia there is still such a stigma about getting help, i wish it was more like america where it's normal to have a therapist and everyone shares their therapy experiences!

    thanks for being brave enough to share :)

  2. Congratulations! You must feel so proud of yourself :) I have a needle phobia too (though from the sounds of it, not as extreme as yours), and am so impressed you were able to have a vaccination without a support person there! I couldn't do that. Well done hun xx

  3. Good for you! And I totally agree...reaching out and asking for help is not something to be ashamed of. Everyone has their own phobias and my little brother (18yo and planning on a life in the he thinks himself a big tough man) has the exact same phobia as you. I might have to find a high lighter like that for him too, but he likes to pretend he doesn't have a problem.

  4. Wow!!

    That's amazing Cate!! I'm so proud of you, a) for over coming your fear and b) for sharing it on here - big steps!! Most people would just ignore their fear ie: "live" with it and never discuss it. I have a huge fear of enclosed spaces, tunnels, cinemas... sigh... I have to control my breathing and talk myself through cinemas whenever I'm in them. Only really just started telling people about it. I get SO scared that the roof will collapse and I will die. Try to be close to an exit, think about how fast I will have to run. Crazy stuff.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story and well done on over coming your fear. If I do an injection tonight at work, I'll think of you!!!


  5. This is such a great post Cate, thanks for sharing!

    I have been confronted in the past few months with maybe needing to go back and seek psychiatric help for some of my crazy thoughts and behaviours, and although I'm such an advocate for speaking out about counselling and mental health, I do fear taking those steps myself and going out and getting help.

    It's the whole 'would you think less of a diabetic for taking insulin? No. So why would you think less of someone with a mental health problem for seeking treatment also?"

    But anyway, congratulations on being able to work through your phobia! That is SUCH an achievement, and you should be proud to share it!! Your mascot is heaps cute by the way! What a great idea.

  6. Mimi, I definitely agree - there is such a stigma in Australia regarding therapy.

    Cat. You are amazing. Love you xx

  7. Well done, it's such an amazing thing to overcome fear.

  8. That's amazing! :)

    I don't know if I could confront my fear of spiders....if it involved me carrying one in my handbag...

  9. That's fantastic!!! I use needles on patients everyday & don't like them much myself - had to teach Mr TPS to give me my b12 injections last year...!

  10. Well done, it's horrible to have a real phobia. I remember hearing once that phobias are totally treatable. Personally, I have a phobia of mice, just writing the word makes me feel shaky. Thinking of having therapy is terrifying, but I'd love to be empowered with it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  11. i'm really pleased you have shared this story and even more pleased that its something you're in the progress of overcoming. GO KITTYCATE! i cant imagine living with a phobia, it must be incapacitating at times. chubby is cute btw!

  12. Oh wow, what an amazing accomplishment! I'm a psychology graduate and had a client with trypanophobia last semester. The girl I was helping still has a long way to go - but a big turning point for us during the exposure training was letting her see me have a needle without her fainting. You've made such incredible progress! Other students had clients with spider fears or heights and have all had amazing results with exposure therapy!

    Actually seeking a counselor in the first place shows such incredible strength on your part.

    Great post!


  13. Go You!
    Well done for facing your fears head on.
    I can imagine how liberating it will be to get a grip on your phobia (instead of the other way around)
    That highlighter looks pretty scary and I don't even mind needles!

  14. That is so fantastic you have done this, you must be so
    Proud of yourself. Well done! And that higlighter is so cute!

  15. Congrats for coming so far! And thank you for sharing :) Youre right, theres absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help, therapy is a great thing! x

  16. congratulations!!! i have a phobia of mice and sympathise with you... i hate how people are always like oh thats so silly why are you afraid wah wah wah and i'm like i'm not! i know its completely irrational but even stuart little makes me vom and i have panic attacks in the supermarket if i go down the mouse trap aisle. haha. its pretty shit. don't start me on when i've actually seen mice cos its no good!! i'm too scared to have the therapy to fix my phobia because i know that it will involve having to see them/touch etc and that makes me sick right now.....
    you are so strong! haha well done lovely xxxxx

  17. Well done! What an accomplishment! I had problems with anxiety in the past and conquering these demons is no small thing.

  18. Well done you! I was on my way to a phobia of needles as a result of being a child in hospital etc etc, but got some help early on and am now quite confident. I do find that regular exposure helps maintain that, so I've been a blood donor. I hate it, but I can do it and that is the point.

    I also have a fear of heights and enclosed spaces, so imagine what it was like when I found myself having to crawl through a stone tunnel on top of a mountain. Luckily the breathing techniques etc that I had learnt for needles helped get me through the situation so I could keep exploring the amazing inca ruins that I was at.

    I would say to everyone with a fear, you can deal with it, don't let it control your life.

    Congratulations again Cate!

  19. That's fantastic Cate!!! I had a less severe fear of needles before, but I am slowly overcoming it.. I can't bear to see needles or watch someone else getting an injection etc but if I can't see it I can handle it. So I can get a blood test now as long as I'm looking away, even though I shake with fear, at least I don't faint!

  20. I used to be the same with needles!!! I had a huge fear.

    I found out I had a thyroid problem a while ago ,and have to have blood tests to monitor it. So I have been slowly getting used to having them...

    I also had a baby 5 weeks ago, and I had an epidural, my biggest needle phobia!!! I was a little shaky and panicked, but surprised that it was no where near as bad as what I thought! :)
    Great post Cate, thanks so much for sharing. It takes a lot of courage, well done :)

  21. Thanks for posting this Cate - like the previous commenters have said I still feel like there is a big stigma in Australia against getting psychological help. I see a psychologist once a month (I have had previous issues with anxiety and depression, but now it is more just catch ups to ensure I am on track) and I couldn't recommend it more. It is always great to hear other people not afraid of getting help!

  22. Congratulations!! It gets so much easier as time passes.

    I had a phobia of cadavers and anatomical specimens thanks to a childhood incident in the hospital library. I started medicine with the phobia and thanks to desensitization and mindfulness I was able to conquer it (e.g. went down to anatomy lab by myself with no specimens out and then moved onto easier things). To be honest, I started out with Xanax for the first two encounters and that helped suppress the flight or fight response.

    Thanks for speaking about this - it makes me feel less alone! xx

  23. So happy that you were able to ask for help, that is such a huge step in itself :) I once went to a gp to ask for a pysch referral and I left the room in tears, he made me feel so bad about it. Never saw anyone and tucked it away. After reading your post it's made me feel more comfortable with finding a more compassionate gp and trying again.

    In terms of fears, mine is rather generic- heights, but more specifically climbing many many flights of stairs! Something about the monotony and not seeing the end freaks me out. I discovered this on my trip to the US when we visited a small town's lighthouse..

  24. Congratulations, and thank you for posting such a brave message :)

  25. Well done Cate on your progress and posting about it!
    I can definitely relate, I HATE needles. While my fear isn't to the point of not being able to look at pictures, etc, I get extremely panicky and start hyperventilating if I need a needle for anything, and need to have someone to hold my hand! I'd love to donate blood, but I can't get past the whole needle thing!

  26. Well done for confronting your phobia. People often talk about having a 'fear' of something, which many of us have, but a phobia is something altogether different and life restricting. I know, I have a phobia with flying and didnt do it for years, now with counselling (and medication), I still fear it but I now fly. So liberating!

  27. Thankyou all SO much for your kind words and for sharing your own phobia stories! This is something I was in two minds about sharing on here, as I used to feel to embarrassed about my phobia, but I'm really glad I did :) xx

  28. CONGRATULATIONS! That is a BIG deal and I think you are really brave to confront this issue head on. CBT is awesome and I am a big fan. I also harboured a lifelong needle fear (like you even looking at one made me want to puke) but after I found out I had to do IVF I had to do something about it. Now I inject myself in the tummy like it's nothing and I am one of those freaks that WATCHES the doctor inject the canula before surgery.

    Keep up the bravey love, it is SO WORTH IT :)


  29. Bravo, Cate!! Love me a bit of CBT, great stuff. Such an achievement, I cannot believe how far you've come!!
    Heidi xo