The role of fear, disgust, and relevant experience in the assessment of stimuli associated with blood-injury-injection phobia

Heliyon. 2022 Nov 26;8(12):e11839. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2022.e11839. eCollection 2022 Dec.


Individuals with high levels of blood-injection-injury (BII) fears are more likely to avoid health screenings, vaccination, and even minor medical interventions. This could result in more serious health issues, lower quality of life, and even shorter life expectancy. However, still little is known about how various emotions (i.e., fear and disgust) affect subjective evaluation on phobia-related stimuli, and what are the potential risk and protective factors that may change the perception of such stimuli throughout these emotions. We investigated the role of fear of medical interventions and the degree of disgust sensitivity in the evaluation of BII phobia-related content and whether previous relevant experience and age may provide protection against the development of a phobia. We collected online survey data from multiple university sources. Participants (N = 228) completed measures of medical fear, disgust sensitivity, prior relevant experience and medical knowledge. Participants were also asked to rate images related to medical settings on dimensions of valence, arousal, disgust, and threat. Our results suggest that high disgust sensitivity and fear of medical interventions may be a risk factor for avoiding medical settings. However, previous relevant medical experience may function as protective factor. The pandemic of recent years underscored the importance of medical intervention and screening tests. These results have implications for professionals helping (e.g., as counselors) people with BII phobia, and physicians and nurses in informing and treating patients.

Keywords: Anxiety; Arousal; Disgust sensitivity; Medical fear; Threat assessment; Valence.