Overcoming My Fear of Blood as a Med Student
Published on Oct 31, 2020. Updated on Nov 1, 2020.
All of us question the reason to choose a career path. Some of us struggle right before the decision, some of us after. Medicine is a tough decision after all. But what are you supposed to do if you are afraid of blood AND still want to study medicine? In this blog, fourth-year medical student Aylin Canik discusses her fear of blood and how to overcome all sorts of fears in med school.
Have you ever thought of giving up something you love, just because of fear? What would you do if you had an obstacle on your path? Would you do anything you can to overcome hardships or would you give up? For me, giving up was not an option.
How my fear of blood started
I really didn’t expect to feel dizzy at the sight of blood before I got into medicine. As a kid, I had never felt such a thing, except one time. I kind of fainted when I saw my own blood. The blood was running over my elbows, as I looked and tried to stop the bleeding, everything around me began to spin. But that’s it. I took a deep breath and moved on. Convincing myself that I’m not afraid of blood, I chose to study medicine.
In my second semester, something happened. We were in the physiology classroom and our assignment was to calculate each others’ bleeding time with the Duke Method. We had to prick each other's fingertips and then wipe the blood every 30 seconds. As my friend pricked my finger with a lancet, everything seemed okay. But then I tried to squeeze my finger to get the blood flowing and boom! It was happening again. The world was spinning around me again. I broke into a cold sweat. Everything began to go dark.
How I overcame my fear
After this incident, I really thought: How can I be a good doctor with this fear? Am I never going to be a good physician? The thoughts flooded my consciousness. And once I gave in to my fear of blood, nothing was the same again. My fear became worse and worse. I couldn’t see patients, with the smallest sight of blood, I thought I was going to faint. Thinking like this made fainting easier and my fear began growing like a snowball inside of me.
You might be asking, So if you are afraid of blood why did you choose medicine?
I kept asking myself the same question over and over again. But asking doesn’t help anything. So I chose to seek help from one of my teachers, who is a psychologist. She told me that many students experience fear of blood. A student of hers, was in the same position as me and sat on the same sofa before. She has graduated and is now a full-time doctor. The trick was, she explained, to get more accustomed to the sight of blood and drive the fear away.
And it really does. At a summer internship in Hannover/Germany, my job was to draw blood from patients, which I did tirelessly and happily. As I got more accustomed, my fear began to fade away. I still am not at a place where I can say ‘I have no fear, or my blood pressure won’t drop’’ but I now know that I can overcome my fear and am constantly improving myself to do so.
Another tactic that I’m willing to try is a psychological trick, which uses your favourite things to distract you from your fear. For example: You can eat chocolate every time you fear something. Your mind is then going to pair the incident and chocolate. You will actually be conditioned ‘not to fear’ because you do something you love at the same time. Which is eating chocolate, by the way. You may check ‘’The Little Albert Experiment’’ if you are interested.
What is Blood-injury phobia?
Why %15 of us experience the drop in our blood pressure when we see blood isn’t yet fully understood. But there is one theory: to some psychologists, blood-injury phobia is an evolutionary mechanism.
“The idea is that back in time, when someone was coming at someone else with a sharp stick or rock, a kind of genetic variation allowed certain people to faint in response,” explains Tyler C. Ralston, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, who treats people with blood-injury phobias. Soldiers who saw blood during war fainted and went unheeded. The blood pressure drop was also helpful in wounded people, so that they didn’t bleed to death. Survivors then passed on the ‘fainting’’ gene. How cool, isn’t it!
How will you overcome your fear?
Your fears won’t go away unless you start doing something about them. Fears paralyze us, make us unable to take action. Remember, baby steps are better than no steps. Start small.
Figure Out The Root Of Your Fears
Think like a scientist: draw a diagram to help yourself understand.
Motivate Yourself, Think Positive!
Nothing good comes from thinking negatively. Every time you have a negative thought or get stuck on your fear, visualize the positive outcome. Think of how your life will be once you overcome your fear.
Distract Yourself With Something Positive (Chocolate!)
Don’t just distract yourself. Acknowledge your fear first. Then, whenever you start fearing again, do something you love. Play with your dog, eat a chocolate (Yay!). This will have a positive effect on your fear and condition your conscious to let go of that fear.
Take A Deep Breath!
This helps almost every time. Breath deeply into your belly and slowly exhale. Repeat this 10 times.
About Aylin Canik
Aylin Canik is a fourth-year medical student at Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine in Turkey, and an OMEF. She was born in Hannover,Germany and is planning to make medical education better for everybody. During her free time, she enjoys drawing medical illustrations and playing the piano. Also wants to travel the world starting with Lapland and seeing the Northern Lights!
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