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01-08-2012 | Uitgave 4/2012

Journal of Behavioral Medicine 4/2012

Fear-related predictors of vasovagal symptoms during blood donation: it’s in the blood

Journal of Behavioral Medicine > Uitgave 4/2012
Blaine Ditto, Philippe T. Gilchrist, Crystal D. Holly


A recent theory proposes that emotional fainting developed from an earlier adaptive characteristic, fainting in response to hemorrhage. Despite potential loss of consciousness, a dramatic decrease in blood pressure improves chances of survival in animals with severe wounds by reducing blood loss and facilitating clotting. Humans may have developed the characteristic of emotional fainting as a response to anticipated blood loss. This idea suggests that people with stronger fears of blood should be especially susceptible to fainting and milder vasovagal symptoms such as dizziness and lightheadedness. Two samples of young adult blood donors (N = 276 and 663) who completed the Medical Fears Survey (MFS) were studied. Items from the MFS related to fears of blood, needles, and mutilation were used to predict self-reported dizziness and nurse-initiated treatment for vasovagal reactions. In both samples, fears of experiencing or seeing blood loss were more closely associated with both subjective and objective measures of vasovagal reactions, despite the fact that other fears (e.g., fears related to needles) were more common overall. Better understanding of the mechanisms of vasovagal reactions has both theoretical and clinical implications, such as improving means of coping with invasive medical procedures.

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