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Anxiety and Depression Support
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Surgery Options for Needle Phobics?

Hi, I'm writing to ask for your help with my son. He's 16 and for the past 5 years has had worse and worse needle phobia, to the point where now he's completely unable to have any injection. He just shakes, cries, hyperventilates and says No, no, no, no. He has needed outpatient surgery to fix an ingrown toenail for two years now.

He actually had the surgery about 6 months ago but it didn't work. Before that he had tried twice to have the surgery using anti-anxiety medications and both times completely panicked when it was time for the injections. That time he said to go ahead even though he was terrified, and it was very traumatic. After the surgery, nothing changed, so now he needs another and now the phobia is even worse.

The podiatrist wanted him to have it under general anesthesia but the anesthesiologist won't agree to put him under without starting an IV first!

Meanwhile he also has generalized anxiety and last summer started having depressive episodes which are now coming more and more often. I am sure the chronic infection/inflammation in his toe is making his mental health worse. It's also affecting his ability to participate in sports, hikes, even just going for a walk is sometimes too painful. He's in marching band and after a competition he has to wear flip-flops for days afterwards because he can't put a shoe on.

I am at my wit's end trying to get medical help for him. I can't understand how no one seems to see or care that he needs to have the toe treated in a way that also addresses the needle phobia. He is seeing a psychologist and getting hypnotherapy but so far it hasn't worked, or at least not well enough to allow him to be able to get an injection. Does anyone have any ideas for how to proceed? Do you know of a way to have surgery when you are needle phobic, or do you know of a truly effective way to treat needle phobia? The local anesthetic injections are no joke: they hurt! I think that's why the phobia got worse after the failed procedure last time.

4 Replies

One of my daughters is afraid of needles because of all the immunizations when she was a child, I used to have to tell people she is afraid be gentle and then the person giving the needle would reassure her,,, also they may find someone who is the best at putting iv in or taking blood whatever the case may be...... I don't think you want to trick him, it is best to be honest, ....I don't like needles myself, I don't like the sight of my own blood, but I know it is necessary sometimes so I have to look away and not see what's going on, .... Is there an anesthetic he can breathe in? Something like an oxygen mask, or pill form, or one of those steam makers you put medicine in that can be breathed in also,,,,

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Thanks for your reply! Your idea about finding someone to give him gas was a good one. He wants so much to have the procedure, but when he sees the needle he becomes completely terrified and he can't cooperate even though he knows intellectually that the pain of the needle is way less than the pain from stubbing the inflamed/infected toe! The phobia is just too strong. We are going to keep working on healing the phobia too, but right now he really needs to have the surgery ASAP.

The good news is that yesterday I took him to Stanford Lucile Packard Children's Hospital for a new-patient consult and they were wonderful! They have a team of pediatric anasthesiologists who use oral anti-anxiety medication, then they use VR goggles if needed to distract the patient, and they use a fruit-scented gas to put the patient to sleep. All of that is before they start an IV or give any injections. So if anyone else is reading this and their child has a needle or medical phobia, the answer is to take them to a good pediatric hospital. They work with phobic kids all the time and they have tools in place that an ordinary surgical center just doesn't have.

The local surgical center had refused to give him anything except oral anti-anxiety (which we already tried and it didn't work) until after they started an IV, so that was useless.

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You're welcome


Hi, I know this is an older post but I wanted to let you know of a treatment that worked quickly for a child I know it's called EMDR- there is an EMDR Institute and trained practitioners are listed on there. I have used EMDR myself and it has calmed many triggers I have with anxiety and OCD mainly. I have used the ligthts (you watch them go back and forth with your eyes for a couple minutes while the practitioner guides you before and after the lights are turned on and off) and the hand held vibrating device. Both were extremely relaxing. What it felt like it did was help me process my triggers into a different part of my brain so it wasn't something that I felt I had to focus on so much. It was like it was filed in the back of my brain and I could think about it if I wanted to but I didn't have to.

I hope that helps. I enjoyed reading about the gal (Shapiro) who discovered EMDR, and it's use with Vietnam vets. It sounds very promising for the modern day and age.


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