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Needle phobia is as old as human history

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio

Human beings are wired to hate pain, even in the form of a teeny tiny needle delivering life-saving elixir. Needle phobia, or trypanophobia, ranges from slight discomfort to crippling anxiety—and these fears can cause serious harm for people who avoid medical care.

Despite this, we’ve been using syringes and needles forever. The ancient Greeks were using syringes to drain wounds, acupuncture was developed in China thousands of years ago, and tattoos can be found on mummies and bodies preserved in 5,000 year old ice. Yet your expected lifespan is probably a lot longer due to one invention: the hypodermic syringe.

This hour we look at the history of needles, their stigma and controversies, and figure out how to get through fear of shots without judgement.


  • Dr. Jeremy Greene - Professor of Science, Technology, and Medicine at Johns Hopkins University
  • Dr. Meghan McMurtry - Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Guelph, and a Psychologist at McMaster Children's Hospital
  • Johanna Korson - A graduate student working towards licensure as a clinical mental health counselor, and a person who has struggled with needle phobia herself

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.

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Julia Pistell is a freelance producer for Connecticut Public Radio, the host of the podcast 'Literary Disco,' and the Managing Director of Sea Tea Improv. She also worked on Connecticut Public Radio's 'The Radius Project,' an exploration of history and culture in Hartford's neighborhoods.
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