The fear of sharp objects, or aichmophobia, is a type of anxiety disorder known as a specific phobia. A phobia is an irrational, overwhelming fear of something. People who fear sharp objects feel intense fear around knives, scissors, nails, needles, and other sharp items.
This article will define the fear of sharp objects, review symptoms of the disorder, discuss diagnosis and potential causes, and provide treatment and coping options.
Definition of the Fear of Sharp Objects
As with any fear, being afraid of sharp objects can range in severity. Some people may be uncomfortable around sharp objects but can still handle them or be near them without causing too much stress. Others might have an actual phobia, a type of mental health disorder classified as a specific phobia.
Several different types of phobias can cause distress or significant anxiety:
- Animal (e.g., fear of dogs or snakes)
- Natural environment (e.g., fear of storms or heights)
- Blood-injection-injury (e.g., fear of blood or needles)
- Situational (e.g., fear of elevators or airplanes)
- Other types
The fear of sharp objects most often falls into the blood-injection-injury category.
Fearing sharp objects can cause significant distress. Some common symptoms include:
- Racing heart
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Blurred vision
Though the fear of sharp objects can be present in adults and children, it is much more common in children. The average age for having a specific fear of needles is 5.5 years.
Diagnosing a Fear of Sharp Objects
Specific phobias, like the fear of sharp objects, are diagnosed by mental health professionals. To be diagnosed with this particular phobia, the following symptoms outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), must be present:
- An excessive or unreasonable ongoing fear of sharp objects
- Feeling anxious or having a panic attack when near or anticipating being near sharp objects
- Understanding that the fear is excessive for the actual potential threat (this may not be present in children)
- An avoidance of sharp needles or an intense level of anxiety or distress when exposure is unavoidable
- The fear or avoidance of sharp objects interferes with the person's routine, daily functioning, or relationships, or the person is distressed about having this phobia
- The fear is ongoing and lasts for at least six months
- The distress, anxiety, or panic felt by being near sharp objects cannot be explained by another mental health disorder
Speak with a mental health provider to determine whether symptoms are due to a phobia or another mental illness.
Causes of the Fear of Sharp Objects
While the fear of sharp objects is most often caused by genetics, there are also environmental factors that can explain the development of a fear of sharp objects, such as:
- Having a traumatic experience that was painful or scary, like going through a medical procedure as a child
- Learning to be afraid of sharp objects from watching someone else demonstrate their fear
- Hearing or reading about a situation involving a dangerous or harmful sharp object that creates fear or anxiety
Phobias and Genetics
Around 80% of people with a blood-injection-injury type phobia have a first-degree family member who shares the same fear.
Therapy. is the best treatment for specific phobias and anxiety, including the fear of sharp objects. Depending on the severity of the fear, a mental health provider will develop a treatment plan that helps you work through the intensity of the fear and find relief. The most common and evidence-supported treatment approaches include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a therapeutic intervention that involves monitoring thoughts and changing behaviors. CBT for fear of sharp objects might include positive self-talk and thought-stopping when near or anticipating a sharp object.
- Exposure therapy: This is the most common and effective treatment method for phobias. Types of exposure therapy include introducing the feared object or situation in continually increasing amounts as tolerance increases and using virtual reality for exposure.
- Medication: Medicines that help reduce anxiety are often used with psychotherapy approaches. Some medicines that may be prescribed include propranolol and glucocorticoid.
Effectiveness of Treatment
Some studies show exposure therapy to be 80% to 90% effective in treating specific phobias.
Coping With the Fear of Sharp Objects
Although therapy with a licensed mental health professional is the most effective way to overcome a fear or phobia of sharp objects, there are ways to cope that can help support formal treatments.
A common symptom of anxiety is rapid breathing and increased heart rate. Relaxation exercises like yoga, deep breathing, and visualization exercises can help intentionally slow down breathing and decrease the likelihood of panic.
For children, try guiding them through starfish breathing by having them pretend their hand is a starfish and tracing each finger as they breathe in and out.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Try practicing a mindfulness exercise or meditation to avoid ruminating or becoming fearful about the potential exposure to a sharp object. These exercises encourage staying present in the here and now and noticing how the body is affected by different thoughts and experiences.
For children, keep them in the present moment by asking them to name five things they can see, four things they can hear, three things they can touch, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste.
Getting adequate sleep and eating healthy is essential to overall well-being. Controlling anxiety and fear is difficult when basic health needs are not met.
Writing thoughts and fears down can be a valuable tool to get them out of your head and on paper. Journaling can also help track situations and settings that worsen or lessen symptoms.
Ask children who can’t write to use play or draw to work through anxieties. Guide them by helping them name their feelings and represent them through toys or art.
Talking to Others
Living with a phobia or anxiety can be lonely. Finding a support group or talking to people you can trust will help you find a connection as you work through your fear of sharp objects.
The fear of sharp objects, or aichmophobia, is a specific phobia that often brings anxiety, distress, and panic when exposed to or anticipating exposure to a sharp object. Symptoms include a racing heart, fainting, sweating, trembling, dizziness, and blurred vision. It most commonly affects children but can affect adults, too. Genetic and environmental factors usually cause it.
A mental health provider can diagnose this disorder by using specific criteria in the DSM-5, such as if it brings persistent distress, is disruptive to the person’s daily routine, lasts longer than six months, and is unrelated to another mental illness. Treatment options may include therapy, medication, mindfulness, and healthy lifestyle changes.
A Word From Verywell
It might feel lonely or distressing to fear sharp objects, perhaps even more so if your child is experiencing it. But phobias are extremely common. Treatment options are highly effective and work relatively quickly. If avoiding sharp objects or becoming anxious about potentially coming into contact with them is interfering with your or your child’s well-being, reach out to a mental health provider for support.