No needle to fear, there's a cure

20 July, 2010

For approximately 700,000 Australians, the thought of going to the doctor for an injection can be terrifying, and lead to a range of physiological symptoms including fainting, dizziness, nausea and diarrhoea.

So severe is the reaction in some people, that rather than face their fear, they elect never to go to the doctor, and to never undergo tests or treatments, even when it is to the detriment of their long-term health and happiness.

Psychologists from the Centre for Emotional Health research unit at Macquarie University are preparing to launch a new group therapy program to help people who experience this fear. Director of Macquarie University's Emotional Health Clinic, Jonathan Gaston, said blood-injection-injury phobia is a debilitating and serious psychological disorder, but one that can be effectively treated and managed.

"Blood-injection-injury phobia is one of the most common phobic disorders, but is under-identified because it's relatively easy to avoid the issue without a lot of interference in your life," Gaston said. "It can become a major issue though if a person with the disorder is diagnosed with a serious health problem."

Gaston said the program could help anyone requiring an injection to diagnose, treat or prevent an illness, or those likely to be exposed to blood injury in a professional capacity. Examples of groups who might benefit include diabetics, women undergoing IVF treatment, travellers and children requiring vaccinations, and those wishing to pursue a career in medicine or nursing.

"Most people with blood-injection-injury phobia suffer physiological symptoms so don't realise their problem is actually psychological in nature," he said. "They don't seek treatment because they don't clearly understand the nature of their problem or the kind of help they need."

The specialised program is informed by the latest research in diagnosis and treatment of anxiety disorders from Australia and around the world. Research to date indicates that the program supports significant and lasting change for sufferers, enabling them to access important health interventions with little or no distress.

The program is delivered through a series of eight group therapy sessions and addresses the two primary responses of fear and disgust. Each group session will combine education about anxiety, blood-injection-injury stimuli and physiological responses with therapeutic work, and will be facilitated by a qualified psychologist from the Emotional Health Clinic.

Those interested in finding out more about the program can contact the clinic on (02) 9850 8711 or visit

Source: Macquarie University