Blood Phobia (Hemophobia): Definition, Causes and Treatment

Blood Phobia

The blood phobia , also called hemophobia, is the extreme and irrational fear of blood, a type of specific phobia . Severe cases of this fear can cause physical reactions that are rare in most other fears .

Often there is confusion between Hemophobia and fear of needles , a person may fear that blood will be drawn, which can be confused with trypanophobia (or extreme fear of needles). In fact this common specific phobia is actually broadly classified as blood injection and injury phobia. Unlike others, fear of blood leads to some quite different symptoms that will be discussed later in this article.

Psychologists don’t know exactly why up to 15% of us experience the drop in blood pressure that causes us to pass out every time we see blood. One theory is that the phenomenon, officially called “blood injury phobia,” is an evolutionary mechanism.

Causes of blood phobia

As stated above, there is a link between other phobias and the fear of blood phobia. The fear of needles is a combination that is often seen in people.

  • In general, the fear of blood is triggered by a fear of the medical field, as it is often related to blood, injections, injury, pain, and death.
  • Television and movie images can also contribute to this fear. Halloween culture, gory movies, serial killings, murder stories, etc. are also known to cause this phobia.
  • Bleeding is often a sign or indication that something is wrong with the body. Therefore, hypochondriasis or nosobias are also related to hemophobia, as they are characterized by a fear of falling ill or developing specific diseases such as cancer, diabetes, etc.
  • The fear of germs or Mysteryphobia since the individual has a fear of “catching germs” from the blood of another person.
  • The fear of blood is also related to the fear of death or tafatophobia.
  • The sight of blood sometimes causes the individual to faint and the person may fear embarrassing himself or herself from fainting, which is actually the body’s defense response to protect itself from further stress .
  • As with other extreme phobias, fear of blood can be triggered by a previous negative or traumatic experience in childhood with blood.

What are the symptoms of hemophobia?

Phobias of all types share similar physical and emotional symptoms, with hemophobia, symptoms can be triggered by seeing blood in real life or on television. Some people may feel symptoms after thinking about blood or certain medical procedures, such as a test.

In adults

The physical symptoms triggered by this phobia may include:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Fast heart rate
  • Straightness or pain in the chest.
  • Trembling throughout the body.
  • Daze.
  • Nausea with blood or injuries.
  • Perspiration.

The emotional symptoms may include:

  • Extreme feelings of anxiety or panic.
  • Overwhelming need to escape from situations where blood is involved.
  • Self-detachment or feeling “unreal.”
  • Feeling like you’ve lost control.
  • Feeling like you may die or pass out.
  • Feeling powerless over your fear.

The blood phobia is unique in that it also produces what is called a vasovagal response, which means that you have a drop in your heart rate and blood pressure in response to a trigger, such as the sight of blood.

When this happens, you may feel dizzy or pass out. About 80 percent of people with this phobia experience a vasovagal response, according to a 2014 survey, this response is not common with other specific phobias.

The fear of blood can also cause you to limit activities that carry a risk of injury, you may not be able to participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping or running, you can avoid sports, rides and other activities that you perceive as dangerous. Over time, these avoidance behaviors can lead to isolation.

You can develop a social phobia or, in extreme cases, agoraphobia. Your relationships can suffer and over time it may be difficult for you to participate in even the normal activities of daily life, feeling depressed is not unusual.

In children

Children experience phobia symptoms in different ways. Children with hemophobia can:

  • Having tantrums
  • Mourn.
  • Hide.
  • Refusing to be in situations where blood might be present.

What are the treatment options for a person with a blood phobia?

Treatment of specific phobias is not always necessary, especially if the feared things are not part of everyday life. For example, if a person is afraid of snakes , it is unlikely that they will come across snakes often enough to warrant intensive treatment. Hemophobia, on the other hand, can cause you to miss doctor appointments, treatments, or other procedures, therefore treatment can be critical to your overall health and well-being.

You can also seek treatment if:

  • Your fear of blood causes severe or debilitating panic attacks or anxiety .
  • Your fear is something that you recognize as irrational.
  • You have been experiencing these feelings for six months or more.

Treatment options may include the following:

Exposure therapy

A therapist will guide exposure to your fears on an ongoing basis, you can participate in visualization exercises, or deal with your fear of blood head-on. They can be incredibly effective, working in just one session.

Cognitive therapy

A therapist can help you identify feelings of anxiety around blood, the idea is to replace the anxiety with more “realistic” thoughts of what can actually happen during tests or injuries involving blood.

Relaxation

Anything from deep breathing to exercise or yoga can help treat phobias, participating in relaxation techniques can help you decrease stress and ease physical symptoms.

Applied voltage

A method of therapy called applied tension can help with the fainting effects of hemophobia. The idea is to tense the muscles in your arms, torso and legs for intervals of time until you feel your face flushed when exposed to the trigger, which in this case would be blood. In a previous study, participants who tried this technique were able to watch a half-hour video of a surgery without fainting.

Medication

In severe cases, medication may be necessary, however it is not always an appropriate treatment for specific phobias, more research is needed, but it is an option to discuss with your doctor.

Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.

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