Overcoming Your Fears of Self-Injection

Self-injection therapies are a safe and effective way to manage a variety of health conditions from diabetes to autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic disease.

It's perfectly normal to feel nervous around needles. In fact, most people are uncomfortable the minute their practitioner starts talking about treatments requiring self-injection. But this fear should not stop you from getting the necessary treatment you need.

If your healthcare provider has prescribed self-injection therapy, here are nine ways you can manage fears of self-injection.

Tips for Overcoming Fear of Self-Injection
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Ask About an Autoinjector

Many injections are available as subcutaneous auto-injectors. That means they can easily be injected under the skin and are a lot easier to use than a needle and vial.

While most people find auto-injectors easy to ease, there is a learning curve. But you will have plenty of resources, including your healthcare provider’s office, videos, and written instructions from drug manufacturers on learning how to use an auto-injector.

These pens are designed with ease in mind and only require a few steps. What’s more is that when you get better at using an auto-injector, the process will be relatively pain-free.

Ask for Help

Before you give yourself an injection, you will want to learn the right way to prepare your medication and how to give yourself the injection. Consider asking your healthcare provider, nurse, or pharmacist to show you what to do.

If you find it easier for someone else to give you injections, ask a loved one for help. That person should go with you to the next practitioner’s appointment so they can learn the correct way to give injections.

You may also want to connect with others living with the same health condition via online or in-person support groups. These people can help share ideas and words of encouragement to help ease anxiety related to self-injection.

Keep Practicing

In addition to teaching how to properly and safely inject medications, your healthcare provider’s office can also provide tools for practicing at home, including empty syringes and auto-injectors. Practicing at home can help you gain confidence and make self-injection much easier.

One 2017 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice reported differences in the comfort level of 60 adolescents with self-injection. The teens were split into two randomized groups. The first group was given supervised and guided self-injection using a needle and empty syringe and the second group was given education with no practice using a real-life needle.

Researchers measured the comfort levels of the two groups using questionnaires. They found that those who had real experience with self-injection felt more comfort and confidence with injection and had less worry and anxiety than the group that was not given the opportunity to practice self-injection.

Find Ways to Relax

When people get nervous about something, their muscles will tense up and this may increase the pain. When giving yourself an injection, it is a good idea to pay attention to your body try to relax as much as possible.

Take deep breaths while giving yourself the injection. Breathing will help you to stay calm and relaxed while you administer the medication.

Numb the Injection Site

If you are worried about pain and discomfort during the injection, take some time to numb the area before injecting. One of the easiest ways to do this is with an ice cube. You can also use a topical anesthetic cream containing lidocaine or prilocaine.

Another option is trying a tool called Buzzy. This device combines ice and vibration to initiate non-pain nerve signals that get sent to the brain. Because the brain is receiving all of these overwhelming messages, pain signals can't be singled out and are, therefore, dulled.

Rotate Injection Sites

To limit pain, bruising, and scarring, don’t give the injection in the same place every time. Instead, rotate injection sites regularly.  Each time, you should be at least an inch or two away from the previous injection site. A calendar or smartphone app can help you keep track of injection sites.

For most injections, you will be instructed to inject the medication into a subcutaneous layer of fat—a layer of fat just below the skin. Subcutaneous layers include the middle part of the abdomen, top of the thighs, and outer surface of the upper arm.

When injecting in the abdomen, avoid the bellybutton and waistline areas. Stay away from body areas with scar tissue, stretch marks, visible blood vessels and any areas that are tender, red, or bruised. 

Make Sure You Are Comfortable

It is important to feel comfortable when giving yourself an injection. Try to administer your medication in a stress-free environment and at a time you will not be rushed or interrupted.

You should also wear comfortable clothing to give you easy access to the injection site.

Ask About a Shield

A shield is an attachment that goes around a needle and screws into the syringe in the way the needle would. It hides the needle during injection and prevents accidental needle sticks

Auto-injector pens generally have shields, but they are also sold separately.

A Word From Verywell

If you are still anxious about self-injection, take a moment to remind yourself why you are doing this. Your health is important and the medication you are injecting should help you feel better and stronger. Even if injecting yourself still seems scary or uncomfortable, it is well worth the effort and time you put into getting comfortable and doing it right.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tischer B, Mehl A. Patients' and nurses' preferences for autoinjectors for rheumatoid arthritis: results of a European survey. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2018;12:1413-1424. doi:10.2147/PPA.S169339

  2. Shemesh E, D’Urso C, Knight C, et al. Food-allergic adolescents at risk for anaphylaxis: a randomized controlled study of supervised injection to improve comfort with epinephrine self-injection. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2017;5(2):391-397.e4. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2016.12.016

  3. Arthritis Foundation. 5 Ways to Take the Sting Out of Self-Injections.

  4. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Buzzy device for pain relief.

  5. Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Subcutaneous (SQ) injections.

By Lana Barhum
Lana Barhum has been a freelance medical writer since 2009. She shares advice on living well with chronic disease.