Blood and needle phobias can keep people from accessing needed medical care.

Blood and needle phobias, also known as trypanophobia and hemophobia, are among the most common specific phobias. The affect up to 10% of the population. For those who suffer from these phobias, the fear of needles or blood is often so intense that it feels impossible to receive medical care.

In this article, I’ll discuss what blood and needle phobias are, why they are different from other phobias, and how they can be treated. I talk about other types of phobias in this article, Do You Have a Phobia?

What are Blood and Needle Phobias?

Blood and needle phobias are specific phobias, which means they are an excessive and irrational fear of a particular object or situation. In the case of blood and needle phobias, the specific objects of fear are needles, injections, and the sight of blood.

The fear response can range from mild anxiety to a full-blown panic attack, with symptoms such as sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and fainting. The phobia can develop at any age and can be triggered by a variety of factors. Sometimes, a traumatic medical event leads to this kind of phobia. Also, simply being more sensitive to physical sensations increases the chances of developing this phobia.

Why are these Phobias Different?

Blood and needle phobias are unique among specific phobias for several reasons. First, the fear response associated with blood and needle phobias often involves fainting at the sight of blood or even the thought of a needle. Other phobias typically involve anxiety and panic, but not fainting.

This fainting reaction is called a vasovagal response. It is due to a sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate. So, treatment for a blood or needle phobia is unique because the risk of fainting requires different interventions. 

Second, the consequences of blood and needle phobias are more serious. Avoiding blood and needles can involve forgoing important medical treatment. A spider phobia, for example, impairs someone’s life by limiting where they feel comfortable going, and generally contributing to a high level of anxiety. But skipping crucial medical care can have long-term and even life-threatening health implications. 

Finally, blood and needle phobias can take longer to successfully treat. One reason is that exposure therapy, the most effective treatment for phobias, can be challenging when fainting is a real risk. An ERP-trained therapist knows how to navigate this issue. It does take some extra time, however.

How are Blood and Needle Phobias Treated?

A particular type of Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention therapy (ERP) is the most effective treatment available for blood and needle phobias. I wrote an article that outlines an ERP-inspired self-help approach to phobias here, titled “3 Steps to Overcome a Phobia”.

Exposure therapy involves gradual exposure to the object or situation you fear, in a controlled and safe environment. You will also learn anxiety management techniques to calm the body and mind, and exercises to help prevent fainting.

Your therapist can help you simulate a medical visit in the therapy room. For example, in an ERP session you might practice looking at, and eventually touching, a syringe or a vial of red liquid. You may even start out by thinking about these items, then looking at pictures of them.  

With most simple phobias, there is a focus on relaxing the body. However, with blood and needle phobias, you want to keep your blood pressure from dropping dramatically, so you don’t actually want to relax too much.

Therefore, ERP for blood and needle phobias incorporates particular exercises that involve clenching, not relaxing, the body. By tightening areas of the body and breathing in a certain way, you can counteract the vasovagal response of fainting.

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe a medication such as beta-blockers or benzodiazepines to help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety. A medication intervention is particularly helpful if you need to address a medical problem in a timely manner, but you have not yet conquered their phobia.

Treatment is effective!

ERP requires a high level of commitment and involvement from the patient, but it is extremely effective. In my own therapy practice, I have seen ERP eliminate simple phobias in a matter of weeks or months, including blood and needle phobias. If your life is negatively affected by a specific fear, ERP is a great investment in your health and happiness.

A note about finding treatment specific to your phobia: exposure therapy alone can help with a blood and needle phobia, but research indicates that adding the applied tension component improves outcomes. This study reviewed eleven different studies that looked at needle and blood phobia treatment. It concluded that exposure therapy alone decreased fear, but not fainting. Adding the applied tension decreased fainting.


In summary, blood and needle phobias are a common and challenging type of phobia that can make medical care difficult. However, with the right treatment, individuals can overcome this phobia and receive the medical care they need. 

If you or someone you know suffers from a blood or needle phobia, please know that effective treatment exists. I love treating phobias because the treatment is so effective. Watching people regain their freedom and live without high levels of fear is incredible!

Please feel free to reach out to me if you want help with a phobia. If I’m not the right fit for you as a therapist, I can help you find someone who is.

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.