After writing about my blood phobia — and what I did to tame it — in the spring 2013 issue of Stanford Medicine, I was surprised to get a lot of e-mail from readers suffering from the same condition or similar ones, or both. (In the world of mental health, blood phobia is categorized together with injection phobia and injury phobia, and known collectively as BII phobia.) Their responses gave me a welcome sense of solidarity.
Some sought guidance. A reader in the Philadelphia area wrote:
I now realize I have this phobia. And I had no idea there was a treatment for it.
I pass out with needles, blood and sometimes when someone just talks about blood! Your article actually made me queasy reading it. It took me a while to get through it. But I'm glad I did.
So you know of any treatment centers in Philadelphia who specialize in this?
A reader in the Boston area explained:
From a very young age, I have experienced BII anxiety and vasovagal responses to various medical stimuli. I used to not be able to talk about injections without feeling uncomfortable or faint, and now I am able to get them without being anxious or needing any medical aides (I used to take Valium).
I am getting closer to my clinical rotations in PA [physician assistant] school and am worried about my irrational fears of blood, surgery, etc.
I was wondering if you had any further suggestions for the student going into health care with these types of BII vasovagal responses. I am certain I want to be a physician assistant, I am just so concerned that I will not be physically able to carry out my surgical rotations!
Others, like this Bay Area reader, just wanted to share their experiences:
I first fainted when I was 12 watching a vet surgery! I had no idea what happened or the reaction I had, but I knew it didn’t feel good. I’ve had a few episodes thereafter, usually at doctor’s offices drawing blood. In fact, last year I almost fainted getting my finger pricked at an office health thing! I think the fasting didn’t help… I am so excited to read something like this. To know I’m not the only one, but that there is something you can do, a real exercise to practice that helps!
Thank you for writing this. I truly enjoyed it and feel better already.
Previously: Longreads pick: Blood, sweat and fears
Photo by Alden Chadwick