Fear-related predictors of vasovagal symptoms during blood donation: it's in the blood

Blaine Ditto*, Philippe T. Gilchrist, Crystal D. Holly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


A recent theory proposes that emotional fainting developed from an earlier adaptive characteristic, fainting in response to hemorrhage. Despite potential loss of consciousness, a dramatic decrease in blood pressure improves chances of survival in animals with severe wounds by reducing blood loss and facilitating clotting. Humans may have developed the characteristic of emotional fainting as a response to anticipated blood loss. This idea suggests that people with stronger fears of blood should be especially susceptible to fainting and milder vasovagal symptoms such as dizziness and lightheadedness. Two samples of young adult blood donors (N = 276 and 663) who completed the Medical Fears Survey (MFS) were studied. Items from the MFS related to fears of blood, needles, and mutilation were used to predict self-reported dizziness and nurse-initiated treatment for vasovagal reactions. In both samples, fears of experiencing or seeing blood loss were more closely associated with both subjective and objective measures of vasovagal reactions, despite the fact that other fears (e.g., fears related to needles) were more common overall. Better understanding of the mechanisms of vasovagal reactions has both theoretical and clinical implications, such as improving means of coping with invasive medical procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-399
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • vasovagal reaction
  • emotional fainting
  • dizziness
  • blood loss
  • hemorrhage

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