3 ways to manage a fear of needles
How to Deal with a Fear of Surgery
Many people struggle with fear before their operations. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to deal with your fear. The most important thing is to talk to your surgeon about preparation for the surgery, aftercare, and the procedure. Be honest about your fears when examining your own thoughts and talking to your surgeon. Meet your medical team and together, develop a detailed pre and post-surgery plan. Before you go into surgery, use positive mental imagery to envision a happier future where your procedure is successful and free of complications. Following the surgery, talk to your family, friends, and a therapist about your feelings regarding the outcome of your procedure, if necessary.
Doing Your Research
Learn about your procedure.The unknown often causes fear. Educating yourself about your procedure is an important first step in overcoming your fear of surgery. You can do this by reading relevant material from reputable sources both on and offline, and – most importantly – talking with your surgeon about your specific surgical procedure. You could also talk to others who have had similar or identical surgeries as the one you’ll have.Questions you might want to ask your surgeon include:
- How long will the surgery take?
- What are the risks associated with this surgery?
- What kind of aftercare procedures does this surgery require?
Choose your surgeon carefully.Find a surgeon you trust. If you have a surgeon you know well, or a surgeon who comes highly recommended from friends or family, you will be more comfortable with the operation. When you really believe in your surgeon, your fear will dissipate.
- Plus, if you trust your surgeon sincerely, you’ll be more likely to open up to them about your fears. When you do, a good surgeon will understand and sympathize with your position, and take steps to help you cope with your fears.
Meet your surgical team.Once you know your surgical team, you’ll realize that they only want to help you get well. Feel free to ask them specific questions. For instance, if you’re scared that your medical team is inexperienced, you could ask them, “How long have you been doing surgeries like this?” If you’re afraid that they will not care about you, meeting your surgical team before the surgery can help lay those fears to rest and humanize the whole surgical process. Your surgical team might include:
- an anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologists are in charge of administering the gas that makes you unconscious before surgery. You could ask your anesthesiologist questions like, “Do I have to be unconscious during the surgery?” or “How long will I be unconscious?”
- a surgeon. You might ask your surgeon “How many procedures of this type have you done?” or “Do you have a high rate of success for surgeries of this type?”
- a surgical nurse. You might ask your surgical nurse, “How many times have you assisted with this type of procedure?” or “How will you be monitoring my condition during the procedure?
Ask about the recovery period.One of the most important questions many people have about their surgery pertains to the recovery period. It’s understandable that you want to return to functioning normally and get back to work, school, and family life. Keep in mind that recovery periods differ from person to person due to factors like medical history. For example, if you have diabetes, then your healing will be slower than someone who does not. The type of procedure you are having may also affect your healing time. Talk to your surgeon to find out what you might experience during your recovery. You might ask, for instance:
- “What is the typical recovery time for this procedure?”
- “Will my recovery be slower than normal for any reason?”
- “When can I start exercising again?”
Consider ways to cope before the surgery.Humor and positive mental imagery can help you to cope before your surgery. If you let your surgery play out in your mind, you might become desensitized to it, and it will inspire less fear. You could also use mental imagery to imagine a happy ending for your surgery story.
- For instance, instead of picturing a frozen image of yourself cut open on a hospital table, imagine the whole surgical process from start to finish.
- Use positive self-talk. In other words, tell yourself everything will be okay. When you experience intrusive thoughts like, “I will not live through this,” respond to your own thoughts with a counter-thought like “I will be fine and recover quickly.”
Processing Your Emotions
Reflect on the causes of your fear.There are many reasons for fear before surgery. However, before you can really conquer your fear, you’ll need to identify its specific cause. For instance, you might be afraid of losing control, being away from your friends and family, or experiencing pain from shots or intravenous needles. Other causes of fear include:
- What others will think when they learn you’re in the hospital.
- Being disfigured or scarred by the operation.
Create a pre-surgery plan.A pre-surgery plan is a step-by-step guide prepared by you and your surgeon to help you ensure a successful surgery. Your plan might include several consultations and exams. It might also include certain restrictions on your eating and drinking habits in the period right before you get the surgery. If you need transportation to the hospital, your surgeon will let you know and include it in the pre-surgery plan. Having the steps of the surgery plan in front of you can help alleviate fear that the surgical procedure will be disorganized or poorly planned.
- Always follow the pre-surgery plan carefully.
- For children, it is important that they see pictures of the hospital and medical staff, and take a tour of the hospital so they can better reduce their fear levels.
Formulate a recovery plan.A recovery plan is similar to a pre-surgery plan, but covers the period following the surgery, rather than the period prior to it. Your recovery plan will provide a timeline for your return to normal, starting right from the moment you wake from surgery.
- For example, your recovery plan might include whether or not you’ll need to be picked up from the hospital and who will provide transportation.
- Other potential aspects of your recovery plan include when you can return to work, what you can eat, and what sorts of follow-up appointments you’ll need to schedule to ensure your recovery is going smoothly.
Be honest about your feelings.If you’re scared but pretend to others (or even to yourself) that you aren’t, your fears will only continue to fester and grow worse. Acknowledging your fears about surgery is the first step toward managing them in a healthy way. Communicate your fears with your surgeon and asking them for more resources that can help you cope with your fear.
- Another way to cope is to really face your fears by writing them down. Use a diary or journal to confess exactly what you’re afraid of and how it makes you feel.
- If you write your feelings down, revisit them a few days later and write a rebuttal to your fears. For instance, if you wrote, “I doubt I will recover completely from the surgery,” you might later write a rebuttal along the lines of, “I believe I will recover completely and return to my normal life.”
Try relaxation techniques.Relaxation techniques like massage, acupressure, or acupuncture can keep you relaxed and free from fear during your surgery, and help you ease your mind during your recovery period, too. Some medical facilities even offer these relaxation services as part of their surgical package. Other people find that aromatherapy is also useful for relaxing. Ask your surgeon if they offer these or other relaxation techniques.
Finding a Support System
Consider therapy.Psychologists are trained to help you deal with your fears. There are two ways they might help you. They might help you deal with the fear directly by walking you through the process and demonstrating how your fear is unnecessary. Alternatively, they might help you confront the underlying issues that are causing your fear (which might include having a bad experience with surgery in the past, or seeing a loved one in pain due to a surgery they had). Whatever the case, talking to a psychologist can often help you overcome your fear of surgery.
- To locate a therapist in your area, use your favorite internet search engine. Try a word string like “therapists nearby” or “therapists in [your city].”
- You can also ask your surgeon for a referral or try asking friends for a recommendation.
Join a support group.Surgeries associated with particular conditions often have support groups to help people cope with the feelings about the surgery afterwards. Cancer support groups, for instance, can help you cope with your recovery period after getting a tumor removed. Look for a group in your area associated with your surgery or medical condition.
- Talk to people in the group, and bond over your common surgery or medical condition.
- If you have continued anxiety or fear related to the condition, ask them for ways to cope.
- Ask your surgeon for recommendations on a group.
QuestionI'm scared of the anesthesia and don't want to have that happen to me. What should I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerKnow that having the anesthetic will prevent you from feeling any pain during your surgery. Also, you could try talking to the anesthetic person beforehand and get to know them and the procedure.Thanks!
QuestionWould I know I'm sleeping, or would I just wake up what feels like a second later?Top AnswererPeople have different reactions to general anesthetic. You may wake up after your surgery with no memory of being anesthetized or coming round in recovery, or you may remember every moment until becoming unconscious and fully recall regaining your consciousness in recovery. You are unlikely to dream. Being anesthetized and being asleep aren't exactly the same thing.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I wake upon the middle of surgery?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou have only around a 1 in 1,000 chance of this happening. If you are that one, you don't need to worry, as there will be a highly trained anesthesiologist present to ensure that you are put back under very quickly.Thanks!
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