Help! I'm Scared of Needles!
Last updated: September 2020
For many people, the fear of diabetes and its progression is VERY real. Not just for its potentially deadly complications, but also because of the prospect of having to use needles to inject much needed medications. This fear can often be paralyzing, keeping patients from seeking medical care once their current medical treatments are no longer working toward meeting blood glucose targets. And these feelings are VERY normal. Just ask your child when they’re about to face the needle for their first vaccination.
Living with a fear of needles and diabetes
Just the idea of needles in and of itself can be scary. They don’t just look and seem scary… Society has also made them scary! When we watch movies, or shows on television, we’re presented with long, thick needles, dripping with liquid, and hovering over a person’s skin about to puncture them, like an ice pick or weapon of choice. That’s some pretty intense drama.
Except that when it comes to diabetes – it’s pure fiction.
Needles come in a variety of lengths and widths
Just like the lancet with which you prick your fingers, we have a lot of control. Perhaps your grandma may have had to file a thick, long needle, and boiled it for hygiene – but today’s needles are extremely thin, and come in ultra small sizes. The shorter a needle’s length, the easier it is for it to reach subcutaneous tissue without having to hit muscle… and the finer the needle’s gauge, the less we even feel the injection. Some patients have even expressed they are more likely to feel pain from their lancets, than from their insulin injections!
Some persons wrestle with the idea of just injecting the needle itself. It takes a bit of oomph to work up the courage to pinch one’s skin, and hit the plunger. It’s sort of like a ‘self harm’ thing in their minds. Some persons are lucky enough to have the option of asking a family member, caretaker, or loved one, to inject their medications for them. If you are in this boat, you are welcome to consider that option. But if that person isn’t going to always be around, or if you simply do not have the option to begin with, there are other alternatives.
Needles can use auto-injector devices
Just like lancing devices do for lancets, there are a number of auto-injector devices which just need to be prepped up, put over the skin just like a lancing device, and a simple button pressed. They will then push the plunger for you, and inject you with your much needed medication. Some button-press devices are even a part of other needle-delivery mechanisms, like some insulin pumps, or insulin pens. They also have very fine gauge needles, as to minimize pain.
But if the fear of stigma is what’s keeping you from injecting – the fear that others might see you as a failure, or perhaps think that you’re a drug addict, then consider that many of today’s injectable diabetes medications do not have to be used in the form of a vial and a needle.
Many diabetes medications come in the form of a pen
That’s right. A PEN! They look just like a pen. You rotate a little dial to tell it how many ‘units’ of medication you need, you hover it over your skin, and you press a button. Done. It injects the medication for you, without you having to worry over pressing a plunger. The pens require little to no refrigeration, last around 28 days, and best of all – many of them come in a variety of colorful designs and styles. That look NOTHING like a regular needle. At the most, they might resemble an EPI pen for allergies.
At the end of the day, though, the motivation behind facing one’s fear of needles in order to deliver much needing medications is to live. There are many people who, without insulin, would die. When presented with the question as to what helped them overcome their fear of needles, most persons with diabetes simply answered: “Just do it.” With time, the activity becomes second nature, and a far distant worry compared to losing one’s life, family, and quality of life. If however, you still feel you are paralyzed with fear over the need to inject much needed medications, please consult with your medical team. With the help of a behavioral therapist, they might be able to help you overcome your obstacles.
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