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Blood phobia is the fear of blood. For many people, a blood phobia can be characterized by an intense and irrational reaction to the sight, idea or presence of blood. Physical responses such as nausea, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure and fainting can follow. This phobia can be treated by psychologists using techniques such as relaxation training, applied tension and desensitization. Certain medications can also help those who suffer from a fear of blood.
Initial reactions to blood can include fear and disgust. The heart might race and blood pressure can increase, but these quick increases in heart rate and blood pressure can be followed by sudden decreases. Nausea and dizziness can result. Unlike with other phobias, fainting can be a real occurrence in blood phobia. As much as 15 percent of people can experience a decrease in blood pressure significant enough to lead to fainting.
For some people, the fear of blood can be directly traced to the patient's history. Personal or witnessed traumas involving blood during childhood or adolescence can lead to a blood phobia. For others, however, a blood phobia does not have any apparent source. Some researchers postulate that genetics can play a role in the fear of blood.
Some experts believe that blood phobia is the natural result of an evolutionary mechanism. The fainting associated with blood phobia is thought to have played a key role in the survival of those who were engaged in or injured during war. It's postulated that fainting helped survivors appear dead and prevented them from bleeding to death if inflicted with severe wounds.
Whatever the root cause, the phobia can be treated. Some techniques employed by psychologists to treat blood phobia include relaxation training and applied tension. These therapies can help patients relax and tense muscles in their bodies. Applied tension can be especially helpful to those who anticipate a blood pressure drop at the sight of blood. Strategically tensing muscles in the arms, trunk and legs for about 15 seconds can increase blood pressure and keep people with blood phobias from fainting.
Fear of blood can also be treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy and anxiety medications. Desensitization procedures can be undergone so that the patient can face the idea and sight of blood without having a physical reaction. For example, a patient can be exposed to blood stimuli and learn how to cope with its presence.