Simply explained, Hemophobia or the extreme fear of blood, elicits a phobic reaction from the suffering individual at the sight of blood, which may or may not be his own. Often, there is confusion between Hemophobia and the fear of needles. A person may be afraid of having his blood drawn which can be mistaken for Trypanophobia (or the extreme fear of needles). In fact; this common specific phobia is actually categorized broadly as blood-injection-injury phobia. Unlike other specific phobias, the fear of blood phobia leads to some rather different symptoms which shall be covered later in this article.
First let us study the causes of Hemophobia.
Causes of fear of blood phobia
As stated above, there is a link between other phobias and the fear of blood phobia. The fear of needles phobia and hemophobia is one combination often seen in individuals. Some patients are known to display a phobia of dentists and doctors along with Hemophobia.
- In general, the fear of blood phobia is triggered by a fear of the field of medicine as it is often related to blood, injections, injury, pain and death.
- TV and movie images can also contribute to this fear. Halloween culture, gory bloody movies, serial killer murder stories etc have also been known to cause this phobia.
- Bleeding is often a sign or indication that there is something wrong with the body. Hence, hypochondriasis or nosophobias are also linked to Hemophobia. Hypochondriasis and Nosophobia are both characterized by a fear of falling sick or developing specific diseases like cancer, diabetes etc.
- The fear of germs or Mysophobia can also trigger Hemophobia since the individual is afraid of ‘catching germs’ from someone else’s blood.
- Fear of blood is also linked to the fear of death or Thanatophobia.
- The sight of blood often causes the individual to faint; s/he may fear embarrassing oneself by fainting, which is actually the body’s defense response to protect itself from further stress.
- As with other extreme phobias, the fear of blood can be brought on by a prior negative or traumatic childhood experience with blood.
Symptoms of Hemophobia
As stated above, Hemophobia brings on some rather different symptoms than those brought on by specific phobias.
The similarities with other phobia symptoms are: anxiety, nausea, increased heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking at the sight of blood. This is followed by a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate that leads the individual to faint, become pale or weak, which are not seen in other phobia reactions.
Fainting occurs because the brain does not receive adequate blood supply. Fainting or having a panic attack can be an ‘embarrassment’ to the individual who then tries to avoid seeing blood at all costs.
Hemophobics not only fear seeing their own blood or that of others, in some cases, they may even have an anxiety attack upon seeing blood of animals.
The phobia can sometimes consume one to the degree that it interferes with his/her daily life. The sufferer might refuse to visit a doctor or dentist or even see printed pictures of movies involving blood. S/he may lead a sedentary lifestyle in order to avoid sports related injuries.
Treatment for overcoming fear of blood phobia
Experts recommend the opposite of relaxation techniques which are usually suggested for overcoming other common specific phobias. In this method, rather than relaxing, the individual is asked to ‘squeeze his large muscle groups into tense knots’ in order to prevent himself from fainting. This technique is especially helpful for patients who faint at the time of getting an injection.
One of the major side effects of Hemophobia is depression or anxiety. A mental health professional can help provide a solution to overcome these conditions.
Hemophobics are also encouraged to gradually expose themselves to certain events or sports which are potential areas where blood may be present. This can help one slowly get comfortable with their fear. Behavior and cognitive behavior therapies as well as hypnosis and talk therapies can help hemophobics lead a normal life.