What Is Hemophobia?

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What Is Hemophobia?

Hemophobia (also called hematophobia) is the fear of blood, wounds, and injuries. Hemophobia is categorized by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as a “blood-injection-injury” (BII) phobia. This subtype, which also includes trypanophobia or fear of needles, can cause symptoms that are not frequently seen in other types of specific phobias.

Having an aversion to blood is natural—in fact, horror movies often prey on our discomfort by showing large quantities of fake blood to inspire fear and unease in their audience. However, hemophobia causes much more than discomfort, and someone with this condition will experience highly distressing and disruptive symptoms at the sight of blood.

This article explores the symptoms, diagnosis, and causes of hemophobia. It also covers the treatments and coping strategies that can be helpful.

Symptoms of Hemophobia

Hemophobia can cause physical symptoms like:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Increased heart rate initially, followed by a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea and gastrointestinal upset
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shaking
  • Sweating

It can also cause emotional symptoms, including:

  • Anticipatory anxiety ahead of medical procedures
  • Extreme fear and anxiety at the sight or thought of blood
  • Feeling of intense disgust at the sight of blood
  • Panic attacks
  • Persistent avoidance of medical procedures that might involve the sight of blood
  • Problems functioning in other areas of your life
  • Shock

Children can also show signs of hemophobia by clinging, crying, freezing, and throwing tantrums as a response to their fear of blood.

While most types of phobia lead to an increase in cardiac activity, BII phobias such as hemophobia can cause an abrupt and sometimes dangerous reduction in blood pressure and heart rate. This sudden drop can lead to fainting at the sight of blood, which is relatively common for people with hemophobia.

Rarely, an extreme reaction to the sight of blood could lead to cardiac arrest and even death. If you or a loved one is experiencing serious cardiac symptoms after the sight of blood, call 911 or seek help immediately.

For help dealing with hemophobia, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

Diagnosis of Hemophobia

When diagnosing a phobia, your doctor will look for signs that show your fear of blood is extreme, has lasted for at least six months, and causes significant problems in other areas of your life.

Your doctor will also check to see if you have symptoms of a related phobia, like the fear of hospitals (nosocomephobia) or needles (trypanophobia), or if you show signs of a common comorbid condition, like:

Recap

To diagnose hemophobia, your healthcare provider will ask question about your symptoms, their severity, and how long they have lasted. They will also ask questions about how these symptoms affect your life and may evaluate you to determine if your symptoms might be caused by another mental health condition.

Causes of Hemophobia

Hemophobia affects around 3 to 4% of people. While it's hard to determine an exact cause, BII phobias may have a genetic component. Many people with this type of fear have multiple family members with the same condition. It's also possible to have developed this phobia during childhood if a caregiver or another adult showed extreme discomfort around blood.

Hemophobia can also be related to trauma. If you have experienced or witnessed a severe injury involving significant blood loss, you may develop a phobia.

Your phobia may also be rooted in another underlying fear, like:

In some cases, the fear of blood may be related to a fear of loss of control or even a fear of death.

Types of Hemophobia

Hemophobia symptoms can occur in a variety of situations; you don't necessarily need to be in sight of blood to experience discomfort and anxiety. While phobias may begin as a fear of a specific stimulus, they can become generalized over time. That means you may experience symptoms by encountering fake blood in images, movies, television shows, or video games.

Impact of Hemophobia

Hemophobia can cause a wide range of difficulties that may prove life-limiting or even dangerous. If you are afraid of blood, you may be reluctant to seek medical treatment. You might postpone or avoid annual physicals and needed medical tests. You may refuse surgery or dental treatments.

Parents with hemophobia may find it difficult or impossible to bandage their children’s wounds. You might pass these tasks off to your spouse whenever possible. You may also overreact to minor injuries in your children as well as yourself, frequenting emergency rooms or walk-in clinics when home treatment would suffice.

A fear of blood may also cause you to limit activities that carry a risk of injury. You might be unable to participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, or running. You may avoid sports, carnival rides, and other activities that you perceive as dangerous.

Over time, such avoidant behaviors can lead to isolation. You might develop a social phobia or, in extreme cases, agoraphobia. Your relationships might suffer, and you might find it difficult to participate in even the normal activities of daily living. Feeling depressed is not unusual.

Recap

A fear of blood can have a limiting impact on your life. You might avoid any situation that could lead to injury or exposure to the sight of blood. As a result, normal daily activities may be severely impaired, which can affect relationships and contribute to loneliness and social isolation.

Treatment for Hemophobia

Hemophobia responds very well to many treatment methods. Therapy is generally the first-line treatment option, and medication may also prove helpful.

Medication

If your phobia is severe, medications like antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs may help. These may be prescribed to control the anxiety and allow you to focus on your treatment, or they may be useful in situations where you have to undergo a medical procedure or otherwise face your fear of blood.

Psychotherapy

One of the most common psychotherapy options for phobias is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, you learn to replace your fearful self-talk with healthier responses to the sight of blood. You also learn new behaviors and coping strategies.

Your therapist may also try exposure therapy, where you are gradually exposed to things that trigger your fear. In exposure therapy, your therapist provides you with guidance and a safe environment to help you learn how to calm yourself down at the sight of blood.

Other forms of talk therapy, hypnosis, and even alternative treatments may also be helpful.

A skilled therapist can guide you through the process of recovery, which can be difficult or impossible on your own. With help, though, there is no reason for hemophobia to control your life.

Coping With Hemophobia

You can learn to manage your hemophobia, and seeking professional treatment is an important part of that process. Taking other steps can also help, like:

  • Learning more about your condition and understanding what triggers your fear
  • Incorporating stress-management techniques into your daily routine
  • Leaning on friends and family for support

If you experience fainting at the sight of blood, familiarizing yourself with the symptoms that typically precede a fainting spell may help you reduce your chance of injury. If you feel faint, try to:

  • Get to a safe area to prevent a fall
  • Practice breathing exercises to combat any hyperventilation
  • Tense the muscles in your arms, legs, and core to try to prevent yourself from fainting

Recap

In addition to seeking professional treatment, there are self-help strategies that can help you cope with a fear of blood. Understanding the condition and practicing relaxation strategies can be helpful. Knowing how to respond when you find yourself feeling faint upon the sight of blood may help you avoid injury due to a fall.

A Word From Verywell

While it is natural to feel uncomfortable at the sight of blood, if your fear is keeping you from undergoing regular medical check-ups and necessary procedures, it may be time to consult with a mental healthcare professional who understands how to treat phobias. Treatment can alleviate the anxiety associated with hemophobia and help you recover from your symptoms.

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9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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