Haemophobia: The Fear of Blood
Are you someone who feels that their head gets light and dizzy the moment you see even the tiniest blob of fresh red oozing blood? If yes, then you might have one of the most common phobias: Haemophobia.
This form of fear is so widespread that even many people hailing from the field of medicine and surgery have it. Bear in mind that the sight of blood may be ghastly for normal people who might wince immediately. But, Haemophobia has its roots deep in the sympathetic system. It triggers a set of reactions that can lead to someone passing out immediately due to an increased stimulation of the muscle of the heart to supply the flight or fight muscles, temporarily cutting off the blood supply to the brain.
You can be declared a haemophobic only if you exhibit a response to blood that is more than just disgust. This phobia can stop you from leading a normal life because injuries as minor as paper cuts can lead to the efflux of blood and can cause your body to undergo extreme stress. If you have a pre-existing condition, such as asthma, it can be triggered concomitantly too resulting in a deluge of symptoms that might require emergency professional services.
The biggest impact it has is on your health. Haemophobic people are afraid to visit a doctor or seek help from a dentist as the mere thought of seeing the minutest amount of blood scares them. Gradually, ailments pile up and increase the toll they take on your well-being.
Haemophobia is Not the Fear of Needles
Most people wrongly associate Haemophobia with Trypanophobia, which is the fear of needles. The latter is largely associated with children who can undergo a panic attack when they see the injection needle approaching them. This can usually be dealt with counseling and as these people grow up, they tend to get less and less afraid of needles used in various medical procedures.
The two phobias are often confused because needle penetrating the skin might cause an outflow of blood that might trigger a psychological response. The person suffering from Haemophobia learns to associate blood with needles, which transpires a similar reaction.
To find out if you have Haemophobia or Trypanophobia, you should judge how you feel the moment you see blood without any needles involved. If you experience particular symptoms without injections, then you most likely have Haemophobia and your fear of needles is an association your mind has developed.
Symptoms of Haemophobia
1. Increased heart rate
Upon seeing blood, your body goes into a fight or flight mechanism initially. Your heart starts to contract more forcefully and quickly to supply your limb muscles with the blood needed to jumpstart your defensive mode in case it gets too much. You will feel that your heart is pounding inside your chest and is beating so loud that you can sense it in both of your ears.
2. You feel sweaty and ruddy
The increased heart and pulse rates carry extra blood to the vessels just beneath your skin. This makes you sweat like never before. You might notice that your hands and skin take on a red color and you look very flushed. The soles of your feet might feel damp within your shoes adding to the uncomfortable feeling. Suddenly, you can sense your body temperature rising and you may need to loosen up your clothing to let some air in.
3. Growling stomach and noisy peristalsis
Your bowel movements speed up the exact moment your eyes spot blood that may be yours or someone else’s. Even if you have had a full meal some while ago, your stomach will growl as if it has not been fed for many days. You could hear the smooth muscle of your digestive tract speeding up the movement of food through your alimentary canal.
We are all familiar with this obnoxious feeling, but someone who has Haemophobia might experience its rapid onset.
The enhanced peristalsis and nausea can make you sick to the core. Right when you see blood, your body will react by making you puke with disgust. This can be dangerous in older individuals or young people who are yet to develop efficient body reflexes as it can lead to aspiration pneumonia. The chances of you falling victim to this kind of pneumonia are also dependent on the position you were in when your Haemophobia was triggered, increasing if you were lying down.
6. Choking feeling
Dyspnea, a medical term used to describe shortness of breath and narrowing of the breathing pathways, can be triggered in grave cases of Haemophobia. The person suffering from it might feel as there is something stuck in their windpipe that would not allow the exchange of enough air to permit breathing. This can quickly turn into an emergency if the person is a known case of asthma. In very serious cases, oxygen administration might become a necessity to save a life.
Blotches of blood induce the same body response in a Haemophobic as anxiety would. The entire body seems to experience a positive sensory overload in the form of the feeling that is similar to pins and needles being poked into the skin. This is succeeded by shivering that most commonly initiates in the hands. Later, the legs start to tremble and muscular coordination may be lost. Standing and walking can become challenging.
8. Chest tightness and/or pains
Haemophobics experience a rigid tightness in their chest as if their lungs were collapsing under pressure being exerted by the chest wall on both sides. This feeling is very similar to the one experienced during a heart attack.
As the body attempts to supply blood to the vital organs, if a haemophobic person does not recover from the episode, it progresses till the blood supply to the brain becomes inadequate. This happens because all the blood has been pooled into the peripheral vasculature to power up the limb muscles. This pooling of blood signals the heart to slow down, temporarily barring the supply to blood leading to a temporary loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, fainting might be the direct reaction to the trigger.
Treatment for Haemophobia to Overcome this Phobia
Haemophobia is a mix of anxiety and panic attacks. Like other behavioral and psychological diseases, this can be controlled by the following methods:
1. Practicing relaxation techniques
Relearning your relationship with blood. If your fear is coming in your way to attaining good health, you need to start rewiring your brain to make it learn that blood is nothing to be scared of. It is the fluid of life and a little blood is harmless. Consistent self- reassurance is all you need at times to fight your fear.
2. Listen to TED talks about phobias
No matter which ilk you have, all phobias ultimately have the same reaction and the same coping mechanisms. These talks can help you familiarize yourself with the fact that it is all in your head and you cannot let your emotions take over your body. They will help you regain control over how you feel when seeing blood. Slowly and steadily, you will start treating blood like normal people.
3. Use Applied Tension Technique
Use your body musculature to make you cope with the reactions triggered by your Haemophobia. If you are someone who immediately faints when you see blood, then you can learn to control your blood pressure to maintain cerebral supply by contracting your muscle the moment you feel like an episode might be on its way. Known as the Applied Tension technique, this has a direct effect of increasing blood pressure and prevent you from fainting.
4. Distract and ground yourself
5. See a psychiatrist
Seeing a psychiatrist might be beneficial if non-interventional tactics such as those stated above fail. Seeing a doctor may help identify the main reason you have developed the phobia. It can be due to any reason, ranging from the fear being inherited to unresolved childhood trauma. Talking to a therapist will bring you face to face with your phobia and equip you with the thought process you need to practice daily to get rid of your fear.
In some cases, anxiolytics and anti-psychotic medications can be prescribed for a very short while to aid you in the process. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has become the gold standard for addressing phobias in the long-term.
Blood is nothing to be scared of, but if you have Haemophobia, it is better to deal with it instead of letting it control you throughout your life. If you are sure you suffer from it, you can retrain the way your mind perceives blood.
The first step to regaining control is to identify your symptoms and differentiate them from similar phobias. Personal acknowledgment is crucial to the motivation needed to make amends. If nothing else works, seek help from your loved ones and professionals.