By Art Holliday
St. Louis (KSDK) -- "I get a knot in my stomach," said Cheryl Guill. "It feels like it comes up to here like I'm going to gag, and I don't even know how to act."
Guill is describing her fear of needles, a fear shared by millions of Americans.
"I'm breathless. I panic."
So do many others.
In 2001 in a Gallup survey of over 1,000, 21-percent of them said they were afraid of needles and shots. When it comes to getting a shot, some people have anxiety attacks. Some people cry. Some people faint. In the most severe cases of needle phobia, people like Cheryl Guill avoid dental and medical care.
"I passed up shots for ovarian cancer, I passed up flu shots, I won't do it," said Guill. "The fear of it is undescribeable."
Dr. Alec Pollard is director of the Anxiety Disorders Center in St. Louis and he's treated hundreds of people with needle phobia. Dr. Pollard says if your fear of needles causes you to avoid needed medical care you probably need to seek help.
"Imagine you're a diabetic," said Dr. Pollard, "And you need to start taking insulin and you faint at the sight of a needle. That's a major problem. Many people are not going to physicians because of this fear."
Dr. Pollard says treatment is effective when patients are motivated to reduce their fear of needles and shots. "Literally we might start with pictures of needles, not even real needles until they can look at those pictures and not have a reaction. And then we may move to say a needle across the room. Gradually maybe needles on the table in front of them, and then we may simulate pressure even though it's not really a needle, and ultimately we want them to receive an injection."
Cheryl Guill says she knows she needs help overcoming her fear of needles. "I passed up shots for ovarian cancer, I passed up flu shots, I won't do it. The fear of it is undescribeable. I recommend to other people, try to do whatever you can to overcome that because in the long run you pay dearly, you really do."
When asked about taking her own advice, Guill said, "it's easier to say it when you're on the other side of the fence."
Experts say, if your doctor doesn't take seriously your needle phobia, consider finding a doctor who will take it seriously. There are doctors who specialize in needle phobia. One place to look is the website for Anxiety Disorders Association of America.