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The epidemiology of blood-injection-injury phobia



Background. We report the prevalence, clinical characteristics, frequency of mental health treatment, demographic correlates, frequency of co-morbid psychiatric conditions, and general health ramifications of DSM-IV blood-injection-injury phobia in the general population.

Method. The Diagnostic Interview Schedule (version III-R), which included questions on blood-injection-injury phobia, was administered to 1920 subjects in the Baltimore ECA Follow-up Study.

Results. The estimated unweighted lifetime prevalence of blood-injection-injury phobia was 3·5%. The median age of onset was 5·5 years; 78% had had symptoms within the last 6 months. Subjects with blood-injection-injury phobia (cases) had higher lifetime histories of fainting and seizures than those without (non-cases). None reported seeking mental health treatment specifically for phobia. Prevalences were lower in the elderly and higher in females and persons with less education. Cases had significantly higher than expected lifetime prevalences of other psychiatric conditions, including marijuana abuse/dependence, major depression, obsessive–compulsive disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia and other simple phobia. Cases and non-cases did not differ with regard to usual health-care settings, regular care for specific medical conditions, numbers of out-patient visits or hospitalizations, or previous general anaesthesia or live births. However, diabetics with blood-injection-injury phobia had higher than expected rates of macrovascular complications.

Conclusion. Blood-injection-injury phobia is common, especially in females and those with less education, and it is associated with several co-morbid psychiatric conditions. No strong, broad general health ramifications of this phobia are apparent. However, diabetics with this phobia appear at particular risk for complications; this deserves further study.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr O. Joseph Bienvenu, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Meyer 4-181, 600 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


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