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Los Angeles Times: Facing Needle Phobia

The Los Angeles Times recently spoke with Robert A. Chernoff, PhD, a senior clinical psychologist at Cedars-Sinai, about how people with needle phobia can conquer this common fear when they receive their COVID-19 vaccination and avoid a dramatic reaction like fainting.

As many as 1 in 4 adults fears injections, according to the Times. But some people with needle phobia experience an extreme reaction when an involuntary reflex called the vasovagal response is triggered. Their pulse and heart rate plummet, resulting in sweating, ringing in the ears and eventual loss of consciousness. For those with intense fear of needles, the mere thought of getting a shot is terrifying.

That dread is common, Chernoff told the Times. He said that the medical term for it is "anticipatory anxiety," or fear of fear. The needle causes panic, and fear of that panic leads to dread, which heightens the panic. To break this cycle, Chernoff said, fears must be faced head-on.

One way to do that is through exposure therapy, Chernoff said. With the support of a therapist, patients confront a feared situation or elements associated with that situation, such as a medical waiting room, a healthcare provider in a white lab coat or a syringe. They repeat this process until their brain accepts that these things are not threatening.

None of these techniques will keep patients with severe anxiety from fainting. But Chernoff explained that they can avoid passing out with a few simple tricks. By flexing large muscle groups, such as the arms, legs and core, it's possible to raise one's blood pressure and pulse, causing any woozy feelings to subside.

Click here to read the complete story from the Los Angeles Times.