Coping With The Fear Of Blood

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

A fear of blood, also called hemophobia in severe cases, can cause distress in various areas of life, including at the doctor, when getting injured, or in the face of someone else's injury. It can lead to avoidance of necessary procedures or support. If you believe you might have hemophobia, it can be beneficial to understand how to best cope with this concern and find support if needed. 

Do you need help facing your fears?

What is the phobia of blood (hemophobia)?  

Many people come across blood throughout their days. For example, someone might get a bloody nose in public or a paper cut during a shift at work. If you have children of your own, they may skin their knees or get a cut on their body that can bleed. If you respond to seeing blood with severe anxiety, avoidance, and panic, you might be living with hemophobia. 

Severe cases of hemophobia can cause physical reactions not seen with other phobias. For example, someone afraid of blood may faint at the sight of it, known as vasovagal syncope. In addition, individuals with hemophobia are more likely to have trypanophobia (a fear of needles) or traumatophobia (a fear of physical injuries). Hemophobia, trypanophobia, and traumatophobia all fall under the umbrella of "blood-injection-injury phobias."

Causes of hemophobia

The cause of hemophobia is not entirely understood, but people with a family history of anxiety or phobias may be more likely also to develop a phobia. Traumatic or stressful events can also cause phobias. For example, someone with hemophobia may have witnessed or experienced an injury or traumatic medical procedure. 

What incites hemophobia? 

Bleeding can be scary because it signifies something is wrong with the body. When people fear they're sick or have chronic hypochondriasis (the fear of becoming sick) or nosophobia (the fear of developing a specific disease), this fear can affect the entire body. When you're afraid of contracting a particular ailment, that fear can lead to a fear of germs (mysophobia) or death (thanatophobia).

Seeing needles can incite someone's hemophobia because they fear watching the blood go into the syringe. Several other causes can exacerbate a person's hemophobia, like Halloween decorations depicting blood or gory images on television or movies. What causes phobia symptoms can differ for each person with this phobia. For example, one person might fear all blood, whereas another might fear blood in a specific scenario, such as a medical appointment. 

Symptoms of hemophobia

When a person experiences hemophobia, they may tremble at the sight of blood, experience a sudden drop in blood pressure, feel faint, turn pale, or start to have a panic attack. Someone afraid of blood may also experience these symptoms when seeing the blood of an animal.

A person who has hemophobia may prefer to live a sedentary lifestyle. They may avoid activities like exercise or sports for fear of injury, which might lead to bleeding. They may worry that bleeding could land them in the doctor's office or a hospital, where they might see even more blood. Thus, this fear can significantly limit one's enjoyment of life.

Treating hemophobia

One treatment for hemophobia is to increase the person's blood pressure to decrease the chance that their blood pressure may drop at the sight of blood, causing them to faint.

In addition, the applied tension method may offer more relief for hemophobia compared to relaxation techniques, which are effective with those experiencing other phobias. Hemophobia can differ from other phobias, as the top priority is preventing the person from fainting. Tightening your muscle groups is one way to raise blood pressure. It works well in situations where a person is at risk of fainting, such as when receiving an injection or getting blood drawn at a doctor's office.

Tips for a successful application of the applied tension technique

If you're using the applied tension technique, you may still be at risk of fainting when placed in a situation like getting your blood drawn. If you start to feel faint, lie down and elevate your feet. 

Note that tensing your arm while receiving an injection can make the injection more painful. Instead, relax the arm receiving the injection, and focus on tensing the other parts of your body to avoid fainting. This technique may be challenging to master at first, so it might help to practice before getting an injection.

You can use applied tension on the arm to get the injection before and after the procedure. However, release the tension in that arm while the needle is administered. If, during the injection, you notice yourself developing a headache while using the applied tension technique, try to reduce the amount of strain you're putting on your muscles or the time you spend tensing them.

Use the applied tension technique when you recognize a fainting spell about to come on. You may experience lightheadedness as a warning sign before your blood pressure is about to drop. Learn to identify this feeling, and start your applied tension techniques to prevent fainting before it occurs. 

Do you need help facing your fears?

Professional support options 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapy approach that can be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of phobias and avoiding maladaptive thought patterns. However, some phobias can make it challenging to attend in-person therapy. In these cases, clients can find CBT online through a platform like BetterHelp. 

With an online therapy platform, clients can choose between phone, video, or chat sessions, giving them control over how they receive support. In addition, some platforms offer the option of 24/7 messaging with your therapist, which can allow you to reach out to them if you encounter your phobia during your daily schedule. 

CBT is considered a front-line treatment for anxiety, and research shows that online CBT (iCBT) can treat anxiety disorders as effectively as in-person therapy. Online CBT can be as effective as face-to-face therapy for anxiety disorders, including phobias, and cost-effective and successful, with treatment effects maintained at one-year follow-up. 

Takeaway

Hemophobia is a common phobia, and recovery is possible. Treatment may focus not only on the applied tension method but also on the causes of your phobia. Some people may find exposure and response prevention (ERP) treatment beneficial for facing these fears. If you want to learn more about the treatment options available, consider contacting a licensed therapist for support.
It is possible to overcome phobias
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