Why Do Some People Faint At The Sight Of Blood & How Can You Prevent It?


There’s nothing pleasant about the sight of blood and gore, but to most people it really isn’t much of a bother. Yes, it may make us a bit squeamish and repulsed, but for some people it can actually cause physical illness or fainting. This is because of severe anxiety or stress, but normally it is rare for anyone to faint from anxiety. So, why is that around 15% of people just pass out cold at the very sight of blood? Are they faking it or is it really so traumatic for them?

How We Lose Consciousness & Faint

“Fainting results from a sudden lowering of blood pressure & heart rate that reduces blood flow to the brain”

Anxiety and stress causes an increase in blood pressure, which is why fainting at the sight of blood seemed like such a mystery – fainting results from a sudden lowering of blood pressure and heart rate. This is because the stress and anxiety here is of a different nature, with the individual experiencing an increase in blood pressure, followed by a sudden drop that causes fainting.

This is clinically described as the vasovagal response, which affects only a few people. Fortunately, this physiological response is non-threatening, but it can be pretty embarrassing or cause injury, depending on where you faint.

Why Do We Respond By Fainting?

“Fainting in response to fear of blood or injections most likely evolved as a defense mechanism – similar to those in animals who fake death when attacked or threatened”

Although psychologists have long pondered over this phenomenon, we still do not understand clearly why some people have this response. However, evolutionary studies may offer some insight. According to a theory termed ‘blood-injury phobia’, this may be an evolutionary mechanism that actually improved our ancestors’ survival chances.

In case of violent conflicts or animal attacks, some species like the possum respond by playing dead. It actually protects them as the predator will simply move on to find another victim, assuming them to be dead. For early humans who suffered injuries or attacks, fainting at the sight of blood would be a useful response that increased survival rates.

Fainting also offers certain specific benefits that would favor the ‘fainter’. The drop in blood pressure that causes fainting also affects brain function, with initial symptoms including sweating, dizziness, ringing in the ear, weakness, and tunnel vision. When you pass out or faint, you fall flat, allowing easy blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. On battlefields or in case of an animal attack, this response would also help as the drop in blood pressure would reduce bleeding and the risk of death.

How To Avoid Fainting At The Sight Of Blood

To overcome this problem, you can seek help from a psychologist or therapist, who will provide you with relaxation techniques that allow you to consciously and progressively relax muscles, reducing stress and anxiety. The most effective technique however, is the applied tension technique, combined with self-exposure.

The next time you feel a faint coming on, you need to tense your body muscles, as this action increases blood pressure, thereby lowering chances of fainting. Make it a point to practice this technique regularly, as this is the only way in which you can increase its efficacy when confronted with a situation involving blood or syringes.

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August 24, 2018



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