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Aichmophobia

What Is It, Causes, Diagnosis, and More

Author:Georgina Tiarks

Editors:Alyssa Haag,Emily Miao, PharmD

Illustrator:Jessica Reynolds, MS

Copyeditor:David G. Walker


What is aichmophobia?

Aichmophobia is an irrational fear of sharp objects, which may include pins, knives, needles, scissors, and sharp corners. A phobia can be defined as a persistent and excessive fear of certain objects or situations. An individual with aichmophobia may experience extreme fear and anxiety when encountering a pointed object. This may result in the individual visually and physically avoiding such objects. Like aichmophobia, which is a generalized fear of sharp items, belonephobia is a fear of needles, or needle phobia. These specific phobias are characterized as mental health disorders and are medically reviewed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-V).

How do you pronounce aichmophobia?

Aichmophobia is pronounced ayk-muh-fo-bee-ah.

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What causes aichmophobia?

Aichmophobia has biopsychosocial causes, which integrates biology, psychology, and the social environment. This means that the cause is typically a combination of a physiologic response (e.g., elevated heart rate), a psychological response (e.g., fear), and a negative environmental exposure (e.g., poor social support). Extreme fears, or phobias, may commonly occur after a previous traumatic incident that incited a negative response to a specific stimulus.

What are the signs and symptoms of aichmophobia?

The signs and symptoms of aichmophobia include palpitations, irritability, shortness of breath, anxiety, sweating, and dizziness when exposed to a sharp object. Individuals may also excessively think about and attempt to avoid exposure to the feared stimulus, which may cause distress.  In more severe circumstances, a vasovagal response (i.e., a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure) can result in the individual fainting. Individuals may also have a panic attack preceding exposure.

How is aichmophobia diagnosed?

Aichmophobia may be diagnosed by a healthcare professional based on both the physiological response (e.g., elevated heart rate) as well as a psychological evaluation. The DSM-V outlines the diagnostic criteria for phobias, which includes marked fear involving a stimulus, fear out of proportion to the stimulus, avoidance of the stimulus, and impaired day-to-day functioning for a duration longer than 6 months. In addition, this behavior cannot be explained by another condition.

How do you overcome aichmophobia?

Aichmophobia can be overcome with the assistance of a healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychotherapist. A healthcare professional may use exposure therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy during sessions. Exposure therapy encourages continuous exposure to the feared stimulus, such as a hypodermic needle, until the individual has a lessened response to the object. In comparison, cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that can help individuals identify why they feel fearful and how to overcome their current response.

In addition to psychotherapy, there are adjustments that can be made in the environment. This may include administering anesthetic cream to numb the area prior to medical procedures or emotional support from a parent or friend. Finally, medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be warranted in some circumstances.

What are the most important facts to know about aichmophobia?

Aichmophobia is a fear or phobia of sharp objects, such as needles, pins, knives, or scissors. The cause of aichmophobia may include a combination of biological and psychological response to a stimulus and a negative, unsupportive environment. Specific phobias, of which include aichmophobia, may also occur after a previous traumatic incident involving the stimulus. The signs and symptoms of phobias commonly include elevated heart rate; anxiety; sweating; dizziness; and, in more severe circumstances, fainting in the presence of the stimulus. Diagnosis of specific phobias includes a clinical evaluation with a healthcare professional. Once diagnosed, cognitive behavioral therapy or exposure therapy may be employed to help the individual overcome their fear of sharp objects.  

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Related links

Phobias
Anxiety disorders, phobias and stress-related disorders: Pathology review
Generalized anxiety disorder

Resources for research and reference

McLenon, J., & Rogers, M.A.M. (2018). The fear of needles: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 75(1), 30–42. DOI: 10.1111/jan.13818

Orenius, T., LicPsych, Säilä, H., Mikola, K., & Ristolainen, L. (2018). Fear of injections and needle phobia among children and adolescents: An overview of psychological, behavioral, and contextual factors. SAGE Open Nursing, 4 (1-8). DOI: 10.1177/2377960818759442

RTI International. (2016, June). Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 changes on the national survey on drug use and health. In Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t11/

Yim, L. (2006). Belonephobia—A fear of needles. Australian Family Physician, 35(8), 623–624.