How do you get over phobias?

I’m viscerally afraid of bugs and needles. Seeing a bug (a big one, a stingy one, or a cockroach inside) makes my blood run cold. Seeing a needle or needly blood (drops of blood, surgical cuts, large quantities, etc) makes me lightheaded and faint. This is a little bit limiting in everyday life: bugs go from nuisances to really bad events, and getting a shot becomes an ordeal. I’d like to be free of both phobias, particularly the needle one.

How can I do this? Should I jump in and just get a big dose of it, or should I wade into the water slowly? Is it impossible, and should I just avoid needles as much as possible? Or is there a fourth option? (hypnosis? meditation? … iron deficiency?)

Due to my experience with needles, I think jumping in might not work. I tried to give blood twice and fainted or almost fainted each time. Last time I had blood drawn for a doctor’s appointment, it had the same effect.

Due to my experience with bugs, I think wading in slowly might work. India helped, especially the retreat where our bathroom usually had one large spider in it. The spiders didn’t move much and they never came into our bedroom, so I could see a spider every day and get to be more or less okay with it. Roaches still freak me out, but I now know that I can see one without a house being infested, so it’s not the end of the world. So I’m thinking, little bits of exposure to bugs will help me overcome my fear of bugs. And my bug phobia is not so bad anyway.

So I’m thinking about wading in. Maybe by watching Dexter. But it’s tough; a full episode makes me lightheaded. Do you, dear reader, have any tips?


Julia -

On the needles, do you faint before or after they stick the needle into you? Fainting when you get stuck is a completely normal physiological reaction, called a vasovagal response. Some people are just more prone to it than others. Not much you can do about it other than drink a lot of fluid to keep your blood pressure up.

As for other phobias, exposure in a controlled setting is still the staple of treatment. A psychologist would probably start you with pictures, step you up to seeing the insect, and then have you handle the insect. Maybe it would be too much for you right now, but if you want to do it on your own,stick insects make great pets and they can’t bite. My mom used to keep them (she was working in a PhD in entomology), but I’m allergic :-(

Dan -

Usually before. Hell, I can’t even talk about this stuff sometimes (and definitely cannot watch the intro series of Dexter where he gets bitten by a mosquito and then cuts himself shaving and a blood drop runs down) without getting lightheaded. Good to know about the vasovagal response, though. Also, curious. I’m getting a little woozy now (see? this is absurd) so I think I will stop writing about needles.

Also, good to know about the phobia treatment. Perhaps I could start by looking at pictures of needles, then looking at pictures of people getting shots, then I dunno videos of shots?, then actually get one (when the opportunity comes up). Or start shooting up drugs. Wait a minute…

Not too worried about the bugs one; that’s pretty mild by comparison. Thanks for your medical insight!

mombat -

The stick insect is pretty cool, I must admit- but don’t overlook the part about how they breed by themselves and have lots of insect eggs….that you must destroy or be overrun by them. ewww.
Better to see this one in a bug zoo!… Which is another good way to get controlled contact with weird bugs.

Pretzel -

For insects – nothing will ever help, they are frightening.

For needles – get diabetes. You’ll have to inject yourself and just get over it.

Or try cognitive behavioral therapy, if this is actually a problem, and not just a nuisance.

Dan -

See, I’ve wondered that too! If I got diabetes, I’d just have a terrible couple weeks, then be okay, right? Also, without diabetes, I don’t know of a way I could stick myself daily safely and legally, “just for fun”. (do you know of one?)

Well, anyway, it is just a nuisance at this point. But thanks for the suggestion; I’ve heard good things about CBT in other situations, so perhaps it would help here too.

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