For almost 27 years Kat Buck avoided needles at all costs. Visits to the doctors and routine medical checks sparked intense anxiety, and as time went by, the phobia deepened into an irrational fear of harmless objects such as toothbrushes.
Kat, from Deepcar, Sheffield, became afraid of syringes following a traumatic incident aged three - but after undergoing just one session of hypnotherapy and a process called Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT, with practitioner Susan Sigger, she was finally able to relax and have a blood test.
“I was amazed by how quickly the hypnotherapy worked,” said Kat, aged 30.
“I now carry a hypodermic syringe in my bag to remind me that it’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Kat said her fear - known as trypanophobia - took root after a mishap during a routine pre-school vaccination.
“My mum took me to our local doctors, and in those days, the doctor would do all of the injections rather than the nurse.
“On this occasion, she was extremely rough with me and not at all patient. The needle broke and left me with a swollen leg, hysterical and unable to walk. When it was time for my boosters, it was the same doctor - I screamed the surgery down and hid under a chair, refusing to let her near me.
“I have a huge scar on my thigh from the incident! The fear from that initial episode was reinforced when I was nine and had to have a blood test to confirm a case of glandular fever - this time the needle got stuck in my vein.”
Kat said the fear became worse as she got older.
“My fear had somehow expanded in my head. If anybody spoke about needles or any kind of medical testing, I would need to leave the room - it felt like someone was sitting on my chest and eventually, I’d pass out.
“I started to avoid the doctors altogether. I also started to get irrational fear of other things such as toothbrushes - not when I used them myself, but if someone was cleaning their teeth on TV, or even showing their teeth, my stomach would turn over.”
She decided she needed to face up to her fear after spending months ignoring an aching kidney and falling ill last Christmas.
“I only agreed to go into hospital after several days of vomiting, being unable to walk with the pain, fever and hallucinations,” Kat said.
“My kidneys were not something I could mess around with. This phobia had to go.”
Susan, based in Penistone, gave her an hour of EFT and 30 minutes of hypnotherapy. Kat was encouraged to tap various parts of her body and repeat motivational chants, and a short while later was able to touch the point of a needle.
Susan said: “The ultimate test came when Kat had blood taken. We were able to sit quietly in a private room and do a little tapping and relaxation beforehand with no signs of her previous avoidance behaviour.
“She was able to relax during the procedure and felt no pain or anxiety.”
Doctors now believe Kat’s kidney problem is related to a rare genetic condition she has called Ehlers-Danloss Syndrome, which could be causing calcium to build up in her kidneys.
Kat, who is married to husband Paul, runs a communications firm and magazine called Sync City, but originally wanted to become a midwife, an ambition put paid to by her needle phobia.
“I do wish that I’d dealt with the phobia earlier, especially as Susan cured it so quickly. My main reason for not doing so was that I didn’t believe anything could be done,” she said, but added: “I’m actually really happy that things have turned out the way they have. I believe this is where I was meant to be, but I chose the long way round, picking up extra life experiences on the way.”
Susan’s tips to fight fear and stay calm in any situation
1. Breathe - “When you feel anxious, your breathing can become quick and shallow. Take some time to really slow your breathing down. Try counting in your mind as you breathe in and out slowly. Breathe down into your belly, making it expand as you breathe in.”
2. Visualise - “If you are able to, and it is safe to do so, close your eyes and imagine you are somewhere else, maybe a beautiful garden or on a beach. Choose somewhere you can feel safe and relaxed. Use all your senses to explore this wonderful place and immerse yourself in your thoughts.”
3. Meditate - “Learn how to meditate and practice the art regularly and you will find you can then use this tool easily to find inner peace.”
4. Laugh - “It may seem odd if you are feeling anxious, but having a good laugh is a fantastic way to reduce tension and release ‘happy chemicals’ into your blood - so go ahead and find something funny.”
5. Tap - “I practise Emotional Freedom Techniques - if you learn these you can ‘tap’ your troubles away. It has been called ‘acupuncture without needles’. The tapping moves the body’s energy and gets it flowing. It also allows information from the subconscious to be released into our awareness so we can deal with it, or just to be let go when it is no longer needed. It’s easy to learn.”
Visit Susan’s website - Life Change Therapy - for more information.