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Insight into Hematophobia

written by: Rene Wolf • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 1/29/2011

Hematophobia, derived from the Greek word “haima" meaning blood and “phobos" meaning fear, is the persistent and abnormal fear of blood.

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    Insight Into Hematophobia

    People who suffer with hematophobia dread and fear the sight of the blood whether it's their own, someone else's or an animal's. In severe cases they may become anxious at the mere thought of blood and may be unable to watch films where someone is bleeding or view images that contain blood. The thoughts and viewing of blood may possibly remind them that they are vulnerable to injury and/or eventually death. This insight into hematophobia will provide you with a look at the possible causes, symptoms and treatments of the fear of blood.

    Having a fear of blood, is also known by several other names and/or spellings including hemophobia, hemaphobia, and haemophobia.

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    Insight Into Hematophobia: Causes

    Similar to other phobias an exact cause of hematophobia has yet to be pinned down, however, there are factors in person's background that can contribute to it.

    The fear may be the result of past events that has caused the phobic to subconsciously link the sight of blood to feelings of anxiety. For example, something may have happened during their childhood where a traumatic experience involved blood such as an accident or they had blood drawn or some other similar medical procedure. There is also a possibility that the phobia is the result of witnessing another family member's own fear of blood.

    Because of their phobia the person with hematophobia will go to extensive lengths to avoid situations that may involve the sight blood, such as medical tests.

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    Insight Into Hematophobia: Symptoms

    The mere thought of seeing blood can in some cases automatically trigger the irrational and overwhelming fear, resulting in psychological as well as physical symptoms. One of the most common symptoms of hematophobia is fainting; the person may faint as soon as they are exposed to the stimulus or in extreme cases, at the thought of blood. Other symptoms include:

    • Feeling of panic
    • A feeling of dread
    • Rapid heartbeat/heart palpitations
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Excessive trembling
    • Anxiety
    • A feeling of terror
    • Dizziness
    • Rapid decrease in blood pressure
    • Dry mouth
    • Nausea
    • Extreme avoidance of medical procedures even when there is urgent medical need
    • In some cases the symptoms may also include the fear of needles and/or fear of death

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    Insight Into Hematophobia: Treatment

    The most common treatments for hematophobia include medications and exposure with response prevention therapy which is a category of cognitive behavior therapy.

    • Exposure with response prevention therapy can be an effective form of behavior therapy for someone with hematophobia. During treatments the person is gradually exposed to the stimulus (blood) in various forms, for example in the beginning of treatment they may view images of blood droplets or watch a video with blood present in sections of the film. They will gradually be introduced to the stressor while being taught exercises to help control the anxiety. The duration of their exposures will gradually increase during each session until he/she is able to fully control their anxiety when seeing blood.

    Medications are typically prescribed as a means of treating the symptoms associated with hematophobia such as anxiety and depression. According to the MayoClinic, the primary goal in treatment for a phobia is to reduce the anxiety and fear as well as to help manage the reactions to an object or situation. Medications typically consist of:

    • Beta blockers which work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, for example an increased heart rate, heart palpitations, trembling, shaky voice and elevated blood pressure.
    • Benzodiazepines which are medications that reduce increased anxiety and help you to relax. Benzodiazepines include valium (diazepam), Ativan (Lorazepam), Xanax or Niravam (alprazolam) and Librium (chlordiazepoxide). Benzodiazepines are sedatives and should be used with caution as there is a possibility of addiction associated with them and anyone with a history of drug/alcohol dependence should not take them.
    • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitions (SSRI’s ), are commonly prescribed in treating phobias. The SSRIs include Celexa(citalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Prozac (fluoxetine). SSRIs act on the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical in the brain thought to influence mood.

    NB: The content of this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace sound medical advice.

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    References

    Medicine net.com: definition of Hemotophobia http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=12392

    Depression Guide.com: What is Hemaphobia http://www.depression-guide.com/phobia/hemaphobia.html

    Mayo Clinic: Phobias, Treatment & Drugs http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phobias/DS00272/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

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