A person with axial spondyloarthritis stands at a doorway in distress as sharp objects come flying towards them.

I Developed Injection Anxiety

For almost three years, I have been on Humira, a biologic injection that improves my symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of axial spondyloarthritis. Every 10 days, I swipe rubbing alcohol on my thigh and press the auto-injector pen. It stings, but after 10 seconds, it’s over. It’s a small price to pay for what Humira gives me — the ability to live a relatively normal life again.

At first, it was a minor inconvenience

When I first started Humira, it was nerve-wracking. I didn’t know what it would be like to self-inject. But a nurse taught me how, and after the first few times, it was a breeze. Over time, I got into a routine — I positioned the needle, set a countdown timer on my phone, and pressed the trigger. Easy-peasy. For the first two years, my Humira shots were only a small inconvenience I had to work into my schedule — no big deal. Then, something changed.

Brains are funny. Sometimes, they produce anxiety responses to protect us from reasonable threats. Other times, they make absolutely no sense. A few months ago, I got ready to do my injection. Nothing had changed since my last injection 10 days before, but this time, I was shaking. I didn’t feel nervous, so I didn’t understand why I was having physical symptoms of anxiety. The shakiness made it harder to press the trigger, so it took a few extra tries before I successfully injected.

Then my injection anxiety got more intense

I went into my next injection thinking that the anxiety was probably a one-time thing. It was not. This time, the shaking was more intense, and every time I attempted to press the trigger, something stopped me. No matter what I did, I could not get my thumb to press down — a total mental block. The more tries it took, the more anxious I became. I tried breathing exercises and positive self-talk, but nothing worked. A subconscious part of me had developed injection anxiety, even though I knew there was no logical reason to be anxious. What happened? Why was I perfectly fine injecting for two years? Why now?

As weeks went by, my anxiety became progressively more distressing. By the time I would actually inject — sometimes after 20 minutes of trying — I would be crying from the anxiety and frustration. There was a lot at stake — Humira is so important to my quality of life, and I began to worry that I would mess up my injections and lose its effects.

I asked my doctor for help

For months, I tried dealing with this on my own and by talking to my counselor, but it got to the point that didn’t think I could continue self-injecting any longer. I decided to talk to my doctor. She prescribed me Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication, to take before my injections. Unfortunately, Ativan only slowed the escalation of my anxiety. The mental block was still there. Next, I resorted to a pre-injection vodka soda. It made me slightly more relaxed, but I still struggled. I wished to go back to the days when I injected with ease.

I kept putting off finishing this article. I thought to myself, “I’ll finish the article when I find a solution to my anxiety, so I can end it with a satisfying resolution!”. But… I haven’t found one yet. It’s been over 6 months of unexplained injection anxiety, and I still have no idea what caused it after two years or how to overcome it. It’s confusing to have anxiety surrounding a medication that has helped me so much and annoying to have anxiety scheduled every 10 days. I hope that something will click soon and I’ll regain my confidence. Until then, I’ll settle for the vodka soda.

Have you ever experienced injection anxiety or a similar mental block? If so, please share in the comments.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The AxialSpondyloarthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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