The fear of blood is a phobia classified on current mental disorders diagnosis systems as a specific Blood-Injection-Injury type of phobia (BII). Some sort of fear towards blood is common and, in fact, it is considered that the amount of people that experience this fear may exceed 10%. Yet recent studies point out that about 2-3% of the population suffers from BII phobia.
This data is significant; not only because of its prevalence, but also due to the negative consequences that blood phobia can have on the quality of life of those who suffer from it. These people tend to avoid medical interventions that are key to health or pregnancies, as well as quitting on graduate school (e.g. medical school, nursing school), or avoid visiting hospitalized relatives, and so on.
Blood phobia, unlike the rest of phobias, is characterized by a biphasic anxiety response. That is to say, even though during the first seconds of exposure to the feared stimulus an elevated physiological activity takes place (tachycardia, palpitations, sweating, etc.), immediately followed by a rapid drop (blood pressure drops, cardiac rhythm can drop to between 35 to 40 beats per minute, etc). This can lead to dizziness, pallor, and, sometimes, even fainting.
In addition to the fear of fainting, among the most common fears are: the possibility of losing control, having a panic attack, fear of making a fool of oneself, or fear that the needle will break and stay inside the body. The feeling of disgust when seeing stimuli related to blood is also common.
In regard to the treatment of blood phobia, it is not usually recommended to use relaxation techniques during the exposure to the feared situation (though these are useful during the first phase of the biphasic response). On the contrary, it is considered more adequate to use Applied Tension techniques, with the aim of balancing out the physiological drop and so preventing fainting.
In the last few years, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have shown great clinical efficiency in the treatment of specific phobias. These technologies provide the ideal context to play the situations feared by the patient , in a controlled safe way. In the case of blood phobia, for instance, these technologies allow for blood analysis to be carried out any day of the year, without prior appointment, and offer the chance to set the parameters that are considered suitable and without even leaving the practice.