What is it Hemophobia?
Hemophobia is the extreme and irrational fear of blood, a type of specific phobia. Severe cases of this fear can cause physical reactions, specifically vasovagal syncope (fainting). In this case, hemophobia may present its own dangers if the phobic is prone to fainting spells. Similar reactions can also occur with trypanophobia and traumatophobia. For this reason, these phobias are categorized as “blood-injection-injury phobia” by the DSM-IV. Some early texts refer to this category as “blood-injury-illness phobia”. The sight, smell, or even mention of blood reminds the phobic of traumatic injury, pain, and death. The phobic may have experienced a traumatic and painful event in the past in which blood was present.
Hemophobia is also spelled “hemaphobia”, “haemaphobia” or “hematophobia” and is related to epistaxiophobia (fear of having or seeing nosebleeds or bleeding to death).
The name originates from the Greek word “hemo” meaning “blood”.
Hemophilia, a rare blood disorder in which the patient’s blood is unable to clot, can pose serious health risks, even death. A phobic who suffers or who knows someone who suffers from hemophilia will have an understandable reason for fearing the sight of blood. Pre-menopausal women tend to suffer more from hemophobia, as their menstrual periods can trigger a great deal of physical symptoms. Low blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, and mood swings may be confused with or misdiagnosed as Premenstrual Syndrome.
Depending on the severity of the person’s phobia, a hemophobe may also experience physical symptoms of anxiety, fear, and stress at the sight of prominent veins, or even the mention of bodily functions involving blood. The actual sight of bloodshed may not be necessary to cause the phobic from experiencing these symptoms. Hemophobia may be linked to a fear of disease or contamination, which could be triggered or caused by exposure to disease paranoia from the media. The global fear of AIDS and other deadly infections has contributed to a global concern of bloodshed.
If you know someone who suffers from hemophobia, do not try to help them “face their fear” by exposing them to blood. Despite your best intentions, treatment of phobias should only be conducted by mental health practitioners. Although it may be tempting to try to help your friend or loved one understand and deal with their irrational fear, the risk of fainting and other physical symptoms may pose a health risk for the phobic. Your attempts to help may also trigger a deeper fear of blood, as well as shame, guilt, humiliation, and embarrassment. Various forms of therapy are available in the treatment of this phobia.
Symptoms of Hemophobia
Hemophobia can have psychosomatic symptoms, such as fainting, and may even provoke physical symptoms (e.g. elevated blood pressure), which could result in nosebleeds —a case of the fear causing the thing that is feared. Sufferers may experience:
- extreme anxiety, dread
- shortness of breath
- rapid breathing
- heart palpitation
- excessive sweating
- dry mouth
- confusion / inability to articulate clearly
- lack of focus
- feelings of powerlessness
- obsession with the subject of the phobia
- fear or feelings of losing control
- avoidance behavior
Causes of Hemophobia
A fear of blood phobia is most often triggered by a fear of the field of medicine or medical treatment, as it is often related to blood, injections, injury, etc. Hypochondriasis or nosophobias are also linked to hemophobia. Hypochondriasis and nosophobia are both fears of becoming sick or developing specific diseases like cancer, diabetes etc. A hemophobe will likely avoid hospitals, medical clinics, or doctor’s offices, even if they require treatment themselves.
The fear of germs can also trigger homophobia, since the sufferer will often be afraid of ‘catching germs’ from someone else’s blood.
Hemophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.
Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (e.g. “snakes can bite and kill you”), which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.
It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.
By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.
In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.
Hemophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.
Treatment for Hemophobia
- Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
- Habit strategies to relax
- Cognitive therapy (CT)
- In vivo exposure
- Response prevention
- Group therapy
- Energy Psychology
As with other specific or isolated phobias, cognitive behavioural therapy or exposure therapy may help treat hemophobia. If underlying health issues are the cause, a medical exam will be able to determine the best course of treatment. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is an extreme form of premenstrual syndrome and may cause depression, anxiety, intense menstrual cramps, and physical pain. If hemophobia is related to PMDD, a doctor may prescribe medication to help alleviate these symptoms. Medication should only be prescribed as a last resort, as this will only treat the symptoms and not the cause of the phobia. Phobias are types of anxiety disorders, and other mood disorders may be associated with hemophobia. Treatment and therapy with an experienced and professional mental health practitioner will help them understand the underlying cause of hemophobia.
If left untreated, the irrational fear of blood or bloodshed may get worse and could potentially affect the person’s quality of life. Hemophobia may prevent a person from seeking the medical treatment they need to save their life. Hemophobia is a real anxiety disorder that should be treated by a mental health professional as soon as possible.
The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It’s a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.