It’s a fairly natural reaction to feel queasy at the sight of blood, after all, it’s a key indicator that something is wrong. However, an intense fear of blood can limit what one does in life, and lead to further problems down the line.
Hemophobia, derived from Ancient Greek word for blood – Haima – is fairly common. It differs from the majority of phobias, in that most sufferers exhibit physical as well as psychological symptoms. In most cases, it doesn’t matter if the blood is your own or someone else’s. More extreme sufferers may have a strong reaction to animal blood, bloody meat, or even images of blood.
Hemophobia is frequently linked to other phobias, such as Traumatophobia (fear of injury) and Trypanophobia (fear of needles), and the three are often categorized together. It can be extremely dangerous, as fainting and a dramatic drop in blood pressure is often experienced.
The good news is that is can be treated. First of all, it helps to understand the fear of blood.
CAUSES OF HEMOPHOBIA
There is some debate as to where Hemophobia stems from. Evolutionary psychologists argue that the fainting reaction associated with the fear, was developed during the Neolithic age. As aggression between humans increased, nonverbal signals were used by noncombatants to declare they were not a threat. This included fainting, which over the years appears to have become linked to the sight of blood and injury.
There appears to be a genetic link, with a large proportion of Hemophobes reporting direct family members who are also afflicted. However, twin studies have shown that social factors and traumatic experiences play a larger role in developing Hemophobia.
A painful, childhood experience involving blood can increase the chances of developing Hemophobia. In the same way, a child who witnesses a close relative bleeding profusely and crying out in pain, may soon associate blood with something scary and abnormal.
SYMPTOMS OF HEMOPHOBIA
As with other phobias, Hemophobes may suffer panic attacks at the sight of blood, or even the anticipation of blood. Symptoms include an increased heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, profuse sweating and a desire to get away.
Unlike the majority of phobias however, it is common for the heart rate and blood pressure to suddenly drop, resulting in a feeling of weakness which can lead to fainting. This can often lead to embarrassment, and a desire to avoid seeing blood at all costs.
Indeed, severe Hemophobes will actively strive to ensure there is no chance that they might see blood. From avoiding scary movies, to staying away from hospital emergency rooms, sufferers will do all they can, which can lead to isolation, depression and a string of more serious problems.
Hemophobia can be treated using many of the techniques frequently used for other phobias. However, where relaxation techniques are typically used, Applied Tension is encouraged instead.
Applied tension is the process of tensing your larger muscle groups – limbs and torso – with the intention of raising your blood pressure. This technique can help dramatically reduce the risk of fainting, and can be exercised daily from the comfort of your favourite chair.
Once the applied tension technique has been mastered, Exposure Therapy can be incorporated. This involves gradually exposing yourself, first to images of blood, and eventually real blood. All the while, applied tension can be used to prevent a drop in blood pressure. With this control over your fear, you’ll find that you no longer need to avoid blood.
More extreme cases who are not yet ready to confront their fear may benefit from Talk Therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming or Hypnotherapy. These techniques encourage the patient to change the way they think about blood, replacing negative concepts with positive ones.
In today’s digital world, there are even apps or audio therapy sessions such as subliminals you can download to help rid you of your phobia.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF BLOOD
A fear of blood can be extremely debilitating in an emergency situation, especially if someone is depending on you to help them. By overcoming your fear of blood, and ensuring you can cope with the sight of it, you are far able to help out if the situation arises.
It’s also beneficial to your own health. The rapid drop in blood pressure, and subsequent fainting can be extremely dangerous, in several ways. For example, if you were driving and faint because of a nosebleed, the result could be a far more serious accident. Hitting your head and injuring yourself as you faint is another issue. The actual drop in blood pressure can also be deadly for some individuals.
Having overcome your fear of blood, you no longer need to hide from it, or avoid potential, bloody situations. As such, more opportunities become open to you, in everyday life, as well as in emergencies.