A comprehensive group-based cognitive behavioural treatment for blood-injection-injury phobia

Elizabeth C. Mason*, Jonathan E. Gaston, Carmela F. Pestell, Andrew C. Page

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objectives: A key feature of blood-injection-injury (BII) phobia is activation of disgust responses, in addition to fear. Yet, standard treatments have largely neglected addressing disgust responses. The disorder is further complicated by fainting in 75% of sufferers. Moreover, treatments have been traditionally delivered in an individual format, which may not be as efficient as group treatment. The aim of this study was to develop a group-based programme for BII phobia, with components targeting fear, disgust, and fainting, to determine feasibility and effectiveness of such an intervention. Methods: Participants took part in an 8-session, group-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programme for BII phobia (N = 40). The key outcome measure was the Multidimensional Blood/Injury Phobia Inventory, which assesses a range of phobic stimuli and responses (including fear, disgust, and fainting). Results: There were significant improvements, with large effect sizes, across symptoms over the course of treatment. Participants with higher disgust sensitivity reported higher pre-treatment symptom severity and greater life interference than those with lower disgust scores. Despite this, neither pre-treatment disgust sensitivity nor fainting history impacted on treatment response. For the first time, however, we showed that greater reductions in disgust to BII stimuli were associated with greater overall symptom reductions, highlighting the importance of disgust in the treatment of this disorder, and potentially others. Conclusion: Despite the heterogeneous nature of BII phobia, this group-based, modified CBT intervention was effective in reducing a variety of phobic responses, including fear, disgust, and fainting. Practitioner points: Disgust is a key maintaining factor in blood-injection-injury phobia, which clinicians should consider in their assessment and treatment of this disorder. There is little in the existing literature to guide clinicians in this regard. This study examined a novel group treatment for blood-injection-injury phobia which included strategies to target disgust, in addition to traditional CBT strategies to address fear and fainting. The treatment was feasible and acceptable. Symptoms of fear, disgust, and fainting reduced significantly over treatment. Changes in disgust symptoms were associated with overall symptom changes, however a control group is needed to determine the effects of individual treatment components and to make more robust conclusions about the benefits of this enhanced approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)494-509
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Volume61
Issue number2
Early online date8 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Keywords

  • anxiety
  • applied tension
  • blood-injection-injury phobia
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • disgust
  • exposure therapy

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