Self-injection anxiety

Injection anxiety is a fear of injections. While it is common to be a little wary, 3.5% of people have injection anxiety that is severe enough to stop them from having any injections at all.

Self-injection anxiety is a specific type of injection anxiety - the fear of giving yourself an injection. Self-injection anxiety is an important issue for people with multiple sclerosis (MS), because many MS medications are given by injection. People who prefer to give themselves their MS medications by injection at home must first be trained by a nurse or other health professional. However, self-injection anxiety may prevent people from using their medications properly. People with self-injection anxiety are more likely to stop taking their medications or not to use them as recommended.

Who is at risk for self-injection anxiety? While anyone may develop this problem, certain things can make people more anxious about self-injections. People who are using intramuscular (IM) medications are more likely to have self-injection anxiety than those using subcutaneous (SC) medications, because IM medications are usually given through a thicker, longer needle. Unpleasant side effects from the medication or injection may increase the risk. Anxiety may also be tied to the feeling that by receiving treatment, the person is acknowledging MS and letting it into their life.

Self-injection anxiety counseling (SIAC), offered by specially trained nurses, helps people overcome their anxiety about giving themselves an injection. It uses relaxation techniques, teaches people how to identify "unhelpful thoughts" that may be contributing to their anxiety, and explains the body's natural anxiety process and how to manage it. Specific techniques that are helpful include the following:

  • putting the needle gently against the skin before actually injecting
  • learning to self-inject quickly so that there is less pain and bleeding
  • practising on an orange or a chair

With counselling, most people overcome their fear of self-injection in one to six weeks. If you think you may have self-injection anxiety, talk to your doctor or nurse about counselling.

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