How to overcome the fear of blood?
We explain two techniques to overcome the fear of Blood at 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 involve many disadvantages and a high level of discomfort in the life of the person.
Not being able to see blood at all, both one's own and that of others, can prevent one from going to the doctor or to situations that are necessary, such as the dentist. It is for this reason that many people need to know how to overcome the fear of blood and make their lives a little better. Let's see it below.
What is hematophobia?
Hematophobia is a relatively common fear, which consists of feeling real dread before the blood or, even, to imagine it.. People who have this fear are afraid of places where they might see it, such as going to the doctor, dentist or surgeon, having to have a transfusion, or simply getting a wound, no matter how small it may be. It is believed that, to a greater or lesser extent, 40% of the general population has a fear of blood.
It is not clear what causes the fear of blood. It has been hypothesized that it is something vicarious, learned from seeing fear of blood in family or friends. The idea of genetics has also been considered, given that, from an evolutionary perspective, it is logical to think that, when we see blood, we run away from it, for fear of endangering our physical integrity.
Although it is not every day that you see blood, unless you are a doctor or similar professional, the truth is that being afraid of this liquid can have a profound effect on our lives. The hematophobic person may avoid performing everyday actions, which in the long run will significantly reduce his or her freedom.. In addition, their health may deteriorate as they avoid going to the doctor because, even though they know they may have a serious medical problem, they fear the simple fact that they may have to see their own blood.
As with most phobias, those who fear blood often exhibit these symptoms: anxiety, panic attack, cold sweat, pallor, dizziness, loss of strength, fainting, tachycardia, fear of having a heart attack, tremors, feeling short of breath, hyperventilation, negative and irrational ideas about the event, need to get out of the situation,
However, hematophobia differs from other phobias in the way it is responded to, which is in a biphasic form. That is, when faced with the phobic stimulus, in this case blood or blood-related situations, there is a two-phase response.
The first phase comes directly after seeing the stimulus. It is the consequence of the immediate impression of the visualization of blood, and it involves the typical anxiety responseThe first phase comes directly after seeing the stimulus: increased heart rate, nervousness, hyperventilation, sweating...
But, then, comes the second phase, which is a sudden and abrupt drop in the vital signs.. Our blood, paradoxically, stops circulating in the periphery, giving the sensation of loss of strength in the hands. As the blood supply is reduced, this can cause fainting.
Due to the symptoms that manifest themselves in this second phase, treatments focused on overcoming the fear of blood try to prevent the person from accidentally injuring him/herself when the phobic stimulus is presented.
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 the cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Applied Tension Technique
The Applied Tension Technique is especially useful for the treatment of hematophobia. Although it is most advisable to use it within the consultation of a psychologistwho will direct the patient and give him/her indications, the advantage of this technique is that it can be performed at home or in any other place, since nothing more than a chair is required.
This technique is highly recommended especially to avoid the symptoms of the second phase of the blood response, especially fainting. If fainting cannot be avoided, at least the person will not be injured, since he/she will be seated when it happens. The technique consists of the following steps:
1. Sitting up
As we have already mentioned, the appearance of blood and the onset of the the onset of the phobic response can produce, after a while, an abrupt drop in blood pressure.This may cause the person to run the risk of fainting.
It is for this reason that, in the event of the onset of the response, it is very important to be seated.
2. Squeeze hard
This is a simple but very useful action. It consists of clenching your fists by placing them on top of your legs, as if you were holding something in your hands.As if we had something in our hands that we would like to make it 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 lasts about 15 to 20 seconds.
4. Tension in the legs
While still seated, we force the soles of our feet against the floor, at the same time squeezing our knees together.while at the same time squeezing your knees together.
We rest our legs, as if we were loosening them, to remain between 15 and 20 seconds in a state of relaxation.
6. Getting ready to stand up
We put ourselves in a position as if we were getting ready to get up. We will raise the nagas of the chair, and we will avoid exerting force with the soles of the feet. The arms will not be supported.
Although a little strange, this step simply makes us activate ourselves but in a normal, adaptive way, not tense.
7. Relaxing again
We try to relax again after making the gesture of pretending to stand up.
We contract all the muscles we have used so far, but all at the same time.We can do the same as if we were tense, but this will help us to be in a state of total relaxation once we finish the exercise.
9. Last relaxation
We relax the whole body.
For the Applied Tension Technique to be useful, it is necessary to practice it frequently. In this way, the technique will be automatized as a response to the phobic stimuluswithout the need to put too many cognitive resources into the application of the technique.
For this reason it is necessary that the technique is first applied in the context of psychological consultationto make sure, with the recommendations of the psychologist, that we are doing it correctly, besides that we are internalizing it in a progressive way.
As it happens with other phobias, in hematophobia the technique of the exposure is used that, basically, consists of exposing the person to images in which blood is seen.The technique cannot be applied in an abrupt way, videos of surgical operations or wounds or, directly, to see real blood.
This technique cannot be applied abruptly. First of all, it is necessary to establish a hierarchy of phobic stimuli, going from simpler and less phobic to more complex and more phobic. You cannot start treatment with a hematophobic person by having him witness an open heart operation.
The idea is that, going step by step, the person will manage to anxiety and associated symptoms, such as palpitations, tremors and excessive sweating, will progressively decrease.in a progressive manner.
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 pave the way for more phobic things.
Then, later in therapy, and depending on whether the psychologist considers it appropriate or not, patient may be accompanied to the doctor's office for a blood transfusion or blood test, or even to see if he/she can witness serious surgery.or even to see if he or she can witness a serious surgical operation.
If you are going to try to get the person to have a blood test, since it is necessary for the arm to be untensioned when you are going to do the venipuncture (puncturing the vein), it is an ideal time to perform the applied tension technique.
- Borda Mas, M.d.l.M., 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., & Redondo, M.M.. (2014). Approach to hematophobia and its different lines of research, Clinica y Salud, 25, 75-84.