Self injecting can be scary. In fact, needle fear or trypanophobia, is one of the most common phobias in America.
Illustrations by Leo Mateus.
When looking down the barrel of a 22G needle, even the brave may falter. For those of us that decide to take hormones to best be in our bodies, shot day can be a day we look forward to as much as we dread. We want to arm you with some helpful tips to get past the fear of self-injection.
Sometimes environment can be a tool to finding a bit of serenity. When you are preparing to self-inject your gender affirming hormones, you should give careful consideration to your environment. Setting the mood can and should include finding a clean and comfortable place that makes you feel at ease. Consider playing music that relaxes you and wearing clothing that is comfortable.
When someone is nervous, they tend to have more shallow and rapid breathing, or one might even hold their breath. Once you have your shot prepped, take a few big, deep breaths. Let your nervous system calm. Let the air circulate through your body and try to get grounded.
If your needle anxiety eclipses your focus on why you are going through this to begin with, you may be wise to pump yourself up on shot days with a focus on your goal! With each self injection, you get to bring your body into more and more alignment. Your gender affirming care is a prize! If you associate each self-injection with the outcome, instead of the fleeting moment, you may find more excitement and less anxiety.
When injecting medication, it is important to move with confidence. Injecting slowly can add to the pain of the experience, but doing so too quickly can lead to mistakes. So don't rush it, but don't dwell for too long either. The first few times will be nerve-racking. There isn't really anyway around this. One of our FOLX team members shares their experience, "I remember the first time I gave myself a shot, I had nearly a dozen false starts. I jabbed just the tip of the needle in and pulled it back out repeatedly and turned my butt into a pin cushion! One trick I have learned is to take a deep breath in and push with the exhale." Some may find it helpful to give yourself a time limit. The longer you linger, the more anxiety can build. Setting a timer on this experience can help guide you along. Many of us gain confidence over time and with experience.
Even though HRT is prescribed as a self-injected medication, you can always use our self-injection resources (and any others!) to train someone in your life to administer it on days that you can't bring yourself to do so. If you have a trusted friend, a roommate, a partner, a family member or someone else, you can show them how to administer an injection for you. This way, you know you will still be able to get your medication on time and you will stay consistent even on those days you are feeling extra needle fear.
Whether virtual or in-person, consider syncing with other trans folks for a shot day. You can have a moment ahead of the shot to help pump each other up. You can all talk about your fears together and discuss the triumphs and growth you've experienced in your individual transitions and then take the shot together. Sometimes, building a community around something like this will bring more excitement and less anxiety.
HRT is definitely a reward unto itself, but why not just double down! Go get ice cream, or treat yourself to a dance party, or something else that brings you joy. If we can build elements of comfort and joy into this weekly ritual, we will likely continue to have more and more positive association with it.
If you need a refresher on how to give yourself an injection, find our step-by-step self-injection guide and our subcutaneous (SubQ) and intramuscular (IM) videos. If you still have questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com.