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What is Hemophobia?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Hemophobia is a fear of blood. People with hemophobia usually fear their own blood as well as the blood of others, and may experience phobic reactions when exposed to things like photographs, movies, and descriptions of blood. There are a number of treatment options for individuals with this type of phobia which can be explored with a mental health professional or doctor.

Sometimes hemophobia is rooted in a real-life experience, and it can be accompanied by things like fear of injections and fear of fainting. In this case, a traumatic experience resulted in oversensitization to blood. Trauma can include secondary sources of exposure, such as hearing a traumatic story from someone, watching a film with frightening content, or seeing gory images. In other instances, there may be no source of trauma, but the patient still reacts violently when exposed to blood.

Hemophobia symptoms vary. Some patients experience an elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Others may have the opposite response, even fainting when they see blood. Other symptoms can include trembling, sweating, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and weakness. The patient may develop a fear of knives, needles, and other sharp objects because they are associated with bleeding, and sometimes patients also experience a fear of fainting caused by fainting spells experienced during bouts of hemophobia.

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The fear of blood can be very real for the person experiencing it, and it is an important thing to bring up with medical care providers. People such as phlebotomists appreciate being told when a patient has a fear of blood, as they can adjust their routine to accommodate the patient, or provide the patient with tips which may lessen the severity of the phobic response. Patients should never be embarrassed about discussing their fear of blood before a procedure starts, and asking that it be noted in their charts.

Hemophobia treatments can include a wide range of psychological therapies which usually revolve around gradual desensitization of the patient. It is important to undergo desensitization under supervision, as attempts at home may actually further traumatize the patient instead of helping. Other treatments can include prescriptions of antianxiety drugs which can be taken before procedures which may involve blood, breathing exercises and guided imagery to use when a phobia appears to be manifesting, and requests for accommodation from medical providers which are designed to minimize exposure to blood.

While the fear of blood may seem ludicrous to friends or family of a patient, it is important to be aware that teasing and mockery can make a phobia worse by stirring up even more anxiety and stress. Friends and family who want to be supportive of someone who is working on hemophobia should ask the patient about what they can do.

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