We explain two techniques with which to overcome the fear of blood from home.
Hemophobia is the fear of blood and, probably due to evolutionary factors, it is a fairly common fear. But, despite being adaptive, the truth is that it can have many disadvantages and a high level of discomfort in a person’s life.
Not being able to see the blood at all, both your own and others, can prevent you from going to the doctor or to situations that are necessary, such as the dentist. It is for this reason that many require knowing how to overcome the fear of blood and improve their lives a little. Let’s see it next.
What is hematophobia?
Hematophobia is a relatively common fear, which consists of feeling authentic dread of blood or even imagining it. People who feel this fear fear places where they can see it, such as going to the doctor, dentist or surgeon, having to have a transfusion or, simply, being able to get a wound, no matter how small it may be. It is believed that, to a greater or lesser extent, 40% of the general population is afraid of blood.
It is not known very well what the fear of blood is due to. The hypothesis that it is something vicarious has been shuffled, learned based on seeing fear of blood in family or friends. The idea of genetics has also been considered, since, from an evolutionary perspective, it is logical to think that, when we see blood, we will flee from there, for fear that our physical integrity is endangered.
Although not every day you see blood, unless you are a doctor or similar professional, the truth is that being afraid of this liquid can imply a profound effect on our lives. The hematophobic person may avoid daily actions, which will significantly reduce their freedom in the long run. Also, your health can be impaired by avoiding going to the doctor because, even though you know you might have a serious medical problem, you fear the simple fact that you have to see your own blood.
As in most phobias, those who fear blood usually present these symptoms: anxiety, panic attack, cold sweat, paleness, dizziness, loss of strength, fainting, rapid heartbeat, fear of having a heart attack, tremors, feeling shortness of breath, hyperventilation, negative and irrational ideas about the event, need to get out of the situation,
However, hematophobia differs from other phobias by how it responds, which is in biphasic form. That is to say, before the phobic stimulus, in this case the blood or situations related to it, a response is given in two phases.
The first phase comes directly after seeing the stimulus. It is the consequence of the immediate impression on the visualization of blood, and it supposes the typical anxiety response : increased heart rate, nervousness, hyperventilation, sweating …
But then comes the second phase, which is a sudden and abrupt drop in vital signs. Our blood, paradoxically, stops circulating around the periphery, giving the sensation of loss of strength in the hands. Because the blood supply is less, this can lead to fainting.
Due to the symptoms that are manifested in this second phase, the treatments focused on overcoming the fear of blood try to prevent the person from being accidentally injured when the phobic stimulus occurs.
How to overcome the fear of blood, step by step
Among the treatments to overcome the fear of blood, there are two techniques that acquire greater importance and effectiveness for this phobia: the Applied Tension Technique and exposure, within cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Applied Tension Technique
The Applied Tension Technique is especially useful for treating hematophobia. Although it is most advisable to use it within the consultation of a psychologist, who will direct the patient and give him instructions, the advantage of this technique is that it can be performed at home or in any other place, since it does not require anything more than a chair.
This technique is highly recommended especially to avoid symptoms of the second phase of the response to blood, especially fainting. If fainting cannot be prevented, it will at least prevent the person from injuring herself, since she will be sitting when this happens. The technique consists of the following steps:
As we were already commenting, the appearance of blood and the onset of the phobic response can produce, after a while, an abrupt decrease in the constants, which puts the person at risk of fainting.
It is for this reason that, if the response starts, it is very important that it catches us sitting.
2. Squeeze hard
It is a simple but very useful action. It consists of clenching the fists by placing them on top of the legs, as if we had something in our hands that we wanted to disappear, compressing it. We will hold between 10 or 15 seconds.
The tension of the previous step is reduced, but without reaching a state of total relaxation. This step takes about 15-20 seconds.
4. Tension in the legs
While still sitting, we press the soles of the feet against the floor, at the same time pressing the knees together.
We rest our legs, as if loosening them, to remain between 15 and 20 seconds in a relaxed state.
6. Prepare to get up
We put ourselves in a position as if preparing to get up. We will lift the nagas from the chair, and avoid exerting force with the soles of the feet. The arms will not be supported.
Although a bit weird, this step simply makes us activate but in a normal, adaptive way, not tense.
7. Relax again
We tried to relax again after making the gesture of pretending to get up.
We contract all the muscles that we have used so far, but all at the same time, as if we were tense, only this will help us to be in a state of full relaxation once we finish the exercise.
9. Last relaxation
We relax the whole body.
For the Applied Tension Technique to be useful it needs to be practiced frequently. In this way, the technique will be automated in response to the phobic stimulus, without the need to put too many cognitive resources in the application of it.
For this reason it is necessary that the technique is first applied in the context of psychological consultation, to ensure, with the psychologist’s recommendations, that we are doing it correctly, in addition to that we are progressively internalizing it.
As with other phobias, in hematophobia the exposure technique is used, which basically consists of exposing the person to images that show blood, videos of surgical operations or wounds or, directly, see real blood .
This technique cannot be applied roughly. It is necessary that, first of all, a hierarchy of phobic stimuli be established, going from simpler and little phobic to more complex and more phobic. You cannot start treatment with a hematophobic person by having her witness an open heart operation.
The idea is that, going step by step, the person gradually decreases their anxiety and associated symptoms, such as palpitations, tremors and excessive sweating.
You can start with images of small wounds, videos showing simulations of cuts, drawings with very schematic people in red puddles … Very simple things that allow you to pave the way for more phobic things.
Then, later in the therapy, and depending on whether the psychologist considers it appropriate or not, the patient can be accompanied to go to the doctor’s office for a transfusion or blood test, or even see if they can witness a surgical operation would.
If you are going to try to have the person have a blood test, since the arm needs to be relaxed when the venipuncture is to be done (puncture the vein), this is an ideal time to perform the technique of applied voltage.
- Borda Mas, MdlM, Martínez, O. and Blanco Picabia, I. (1998). Efficacy of the applied tension technique for the control of vasovagal syndrome applied to a case of hematophobia. Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Psychology, 3 (1), 39-53.
- Pinel, L., and Redondo, MM (2014). Approach to hematophobia and its different lines of research, Clínica y Salud, 25, 75-84.