The physiology of phobias

[]This thread is more or less my whinging about my needlephobia and my unpleasant experiences with it. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether it’s not the needle I fear so much as my body’s reaction to the needle. I know very well that the needle doesn’t hurt, doesn’t even feel very weird. I also know (or at least strongly suspect) that after getting the shot, I’m going to lose control of my body in a way that frightens and sickens me.

What’s going on here? Did my body get in the habit of freaking out from shots early on in life, and now those neural pathways are too strong for me to overcome with the best-laid plans? (I was telling myself before this shot, “I psyched myself into this phobia, and I can psyche myself out of it!” Didn’t work). Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which I stress out so much about the shot that once it’s done, my stress releases itself in a dramatic and unpleasant fashion?

I’m hoping that understanding the physiology of it will help me psychologically. Maybe that’s naive, but what the heck–at least it should be interesting.


Fixed link.


Well, I remember reading somewhere that needle and blood phobias a unusual in being associated with a drop in blood pressure, rather than an increase. There is also some speculation that people experience a drop in blood pressure at the sight of blood because, if you are the one doing the bleeding, it would be a selective advantage for your body to slow down the process as much as possible. I guess it could be that some people are genetically more reactive in that way, the same way that some people are more reactive to social situations.

I believe men are more likely to have this problem (my husband is a fainter), and there are theories ranging from women being more familiar with blood to men being more likely to engage in work that can get them injured.

Very interesting, cher! As I’ve begun speculating in the IMHO thread, I wonder whether there could be a tie-in to a human fear of snakes (presumably a universal fear across all human cultures): the injection of a substance into the body may just be a genetic squigger-outter. And low blood-pressure might be a good response to an injection of venom, too.

(This is completely baseless speculation on my part, of course.)