Date of Award

1993

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Patricia Morokoff

Abstract

Blood / injury phobia is a simple phobia unique in its association with fainting, underlying physiological processes, and potentially dire consequences for sufferers due to avoidance of medical attention. Laboratory studies of blood/injury phobias (e.g, Ost et al., 1984) have demonstrated a diphasic physiological response (immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure above previously recorded baseline levels followed by significant decreases below baseline) when patients view videotapes of thoracic surgery. Little is known about the physiological responses to blood/injury stimuli of college students reporting fear of blood. It is important to examine the cognitive, behavioral, and physiological characteristics of moderately fearful subjects who are not in treatment for blood/injury fears in order to evaluate the potential usefulness of analogue research in the study of this unusual phobia. Analogue samples are frequently used in the study of other phobias (e.g., snake phobia), and the apparently high frequency of blood / injury fears in the general population suggests that such studies may be conducted efficiently in university settings.

60 subjects (20 Blood Fear, 20 Snake Fear, and 20 Nonfearful Comparison) were selected from a larger sample based on Fear Survey Schedule III scores (FSS; Wolpe & Lang, 1977). Subjects then completed self report measures of fear, depression, and anxiety sensitivity as well as Behavioral Avoidance Tests (BAT) for snakes and blood. Next, subjects viewed 3 videotapes: Neutral Travel Scenes. 1) Thoracic Surgery; 2) Snakes; 3) Subjects' heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and finger pulse volume (FPV) were recorded throughout videotape viewing, and subjects reported their subjective anxiety and feelings of lightheadedness following each videotape.

Results indicated significant group differences in expected directions on specific fear questionnaires, SUDS following viewing of fearful videotapes, and Behavioral Avoidance. On physiological measures, the Snake Fear Group demonstrated significantly greater HR and DBP changes from baseline during the Snake Videotape than either of the other groups. The Blood Fear Group demonstrated significantly greater changes from baseline during the Thoracic Surgery Videotape only on FPV. The utility of analogue research in the study of blood / injury phobia and suggestions for improvement of subject selection techniques will be discussed.

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