Is the Fear of Needles Keeping You from Better Blood Sugars?

One of the worst-behaved moments of my life was when I went to get my kindergarten shots.  I had a terrible fear of needles.  When my parents took me to get the shots, I pitched a big fit, and the nurse offered me a coupon for McDonald’s fries afterward to make up for the insult and the injury.  

Instead of thanking her for protecting me from a half-dozen deadly diseases and giving me free fries, I threw the coupon right back at her and yelled, “I don’t want your French fries!”  I had my principles, and no amount of deep-fried potatoes could convince me that needles were a good idea.

How I overcame my own fear of needles

Fast forward 25 years, when I took a job as a diabetes educator.  I had to teach people how to give themselves shots.  Yikes!  First, I had to teach myself how to do it, and I really didn’t want to.  Practicing on an orange was just fine, but when it came to injecting into my own skin, I felt nauseous.

I drew up the saline solution (that’s what I practiced with since I don’t have diabetes)  and I aimed the needle towards my abdomen.  And I couldn’t do it.  And I tried again.  This went on for a good twenty minutes while I worked up my nerve.  Finally, I put the needle into my skin, and I felt almost nothing.  

All that worry and sweating and nausea and fear for nothing.  I knew logically that insulin needles are very thin, but I didn’t know that I wouldn’t even feel the needle going in.  I was all worked up for a big nothing.

How fear of needles affects people with diabetes

This week, I had a client in my office who may need insulin soon.  Her fear of needles is so strong that she started to cry at the thought of having to inject herself with insulin.  She said she’d “rather die” than have to self-inject.  That’s a very serious fear of needles.

What I told my client this week, and what I’m telling you right now, is that I’m 100% sure that your fear of needles is so much bigger than the pain you’ll feel if you actually end up needing to use them to inject insulin.  

If you have type 2 diabetes, you may never need to inject insulin, and I hope you don’t.  But if you do need to use insulin, I hope you don’t let your fear of needles keep you from using medication that could prevent blindness, kidney disease, and loss of limb.  I hope you don’t let your fear of needles cost you your life.

If your doctor tells you that you need insulin, take a deep breath, take the shots, and by all means, take the coupon. 🙂

Julie Cunningham is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist. She believes food is the foundation of good health, and that our culture of obsession about body size is damaging to health, happiness, and productivity in far too many people. When not talking or writing about food and health, she can be found in the the mountains of western NC, where she lives with her family and four legged friends.

Julie Cunningham

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