Individuals diagnosed with blood-injury phobia
respond to venipuncture with strong psychophysiological responses. We investigated whether disgust sensitivity contributes to the fainting
response and is associated with parasympathetic activation
, as suggested by previous research.
Twenty individuals diagnosed with blood-injury phobia
(9 with a history of fainting
to the sight of blood, 11 without such a fainting
history) and 20 healthy controls were compared. Psychophysiological responses and self-report measures of anxiety, disgust, and embarrassment were monitored during rest, a paced breathing task, and venipuncture. In addition, trait disgust sensitivity and blood-injury fears were assessed.
Blood-injury phobics reported enhanced anxiety, disgust, and embarrassment during venipuncture. They also experienced heightened arousal, as indicated by heart rate, respiration rate, and minute ventilation. Blood-injury phobics without a fainting
history tended toward higher anxiety and disgust scores. There was no evidence for increased parasympathetic activation
in either blood-injury phobic subgroup or of an association of disgust and parasympathetic activation
The tendency to faint when exposed to blood-injury stimuli may suffice as a conditioning event leading into phobia, without specific involvement of disgust sensitivity and parasympathetic activation
BIP+ = blood-injury phobia with a history of fainting; BIP− = blood injury phobia without a history of fainting; RSA = respiratory sinus arrhythmia; PSD HR = log-transformed power spectral density of heart rate oscillations (0.15–0.50 Hz); CMTR LV-HR = coherence-corrected magnitude of the transfer function-relating lung volume oscillations to heart rate oscillations at the peak respiratory frequency; BIFQ = blood-injury-fear questionnaire; FEE = Fragebogen zur Erfassung der Ekelempfindlichkeit.