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OCD and the fear of blood contamination

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Hello OCD community,

I was wondering if there are any sufferers or ex-sufferers out there that can shed some light at the end of the tunnel for the OCD I'm currently contending with, which for me can be very debilitating and upsetting.  Just some tips to help me out whilst I wait a long time for the CBT I've been referred to, (current waiting time is 8 months :( !)  I'm taking citalopram which at first provided a little rest bite to the physical reaction of my anxiety but now I feel I'm slipping back to my old compulsions.

What it is, is a fear of blood, a fear which is becoming stronger by the day, as a woman it's even more of a stressful situation (without having to spell out the obvious reason why).

When I had my son, I lost a lot of blood and refused a blood transfusion from the fear of contamination.

When I've used the bathroom, I wash my hands continuously and still never feel like they are clean.

I'm just very scared of blood, I don't know what to do, I've never felt like this whilst growing up or during my teenage years / early twenties, but now that I'm older (not wiser) I fear everything to do with it.

I'm aware that this is quite common among OCD sufferers, so any kind of feedback, it would be helpful to hear from people who have managed to overcome it , or have learned how to live with it without it impacting their lives too much.

Thank you and all best wishes.


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Hello Jess,

Sorry you're struggling and it's great that you have asked for access to CBT, is that in Wales?   Slightly off topic but I would push and nag the NHS to give you access, so firstly I would write a letter to the NHS service you have been referred to and a simple basic one paragraph letter saying can you please advise when my treatment (CBT) for OCD is due to begin. Writing is a more official way and sometimes helps.  If they respond with the 8 months have you have already been told. I would then (if you wanted to) write back and raise a formal complaint about the length of time... again his letter should be brief, basic and without emotion stick to facts, and just explain you wish to make a formal complaint about the length of time you are expected to wait for treatment.   This ensure each complaint is reviewed, and the more people do it, the more resources will have to be improved, but also when we complain it's amazing how quickly a lot becomes available :thumbup:     If you are not getting anywhere with that process then maybe other options include involving MP about length of wait being too long.

In terms of how to deal with the OCD in the meantime,  I guess there is no real set answer, we all have to find our own path to what helps and works.  I know what you're going through is very common, and with the part affecting ladies, I have seen a few threads on here over the years, so perhaps have a search to see how others have dealt with that.

One not so much tip but more a first step to tackling OCD which you might want to try and is gentle exposure to blood. For example writing down the word on a bit of paper, and looking at it regularly through the day. That may of course cause some anxiety triggers, but the purpose is to habitualise yourself to the word and the thought (assuming it's something you try and avoid at present).   If you have not yet read it, I would encourage reading 'Break free from OCD' too, one of the better CBT self-help books. 

With best wishes, :)


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Hi Jess,

I too had a fear of blood especially regarding HIV. If a Dr even suggested a blood test I would run a mile. I got cancer earlier this year, which meant I had to face my fear. It was hard, and I worked on it as gradually as circumstances allowed.  Blood tests and needles became such a routine part of life that it no longer bothers me.

Just wanted to let you know it can be done!




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On 11/10/2017 at 11:48, Jess8 said:

I'm just very scared of blood, I don't know what to do, I've never felt like this whilst growing up or during my teenage years / early twenties, but now that I'm older (not wiser) I fear everything to do with it.

Hi Jess,

Clearly when you were younger you didn't attach any meaning to blood, it was just blood. Somewhere along the way you've given it a meaning - that it carries disease, or risk, or a threat of some kind. It's this interpretation of blood as a threat that causes your current problems. 

The natural reaction to any kind of threat is to become anxious, to prepare to face it, fight it or flee it. Which is totally appropriate when the threat is real. 

Once your mind has classified something as a threat, your brain stops asking if the threat is real or not and automatically responds with anxiety each time the perceived danger appears. You start scanning for the threat (obsessions) and checking you're safe, reassuring yourself the problem has been successfully dealt with or managed (compulsions).

For you the threat is 'blood'. Your brain made a mistake when it interpreted 'blood = threat, risk.'  So your challenge now is to teach your brain that blood doesn't belong in the category you've put it in, that blood is just blood. You do this through a combination of cognitive and behavioural exercises. 

The cognitive side is to understand that your brain put a wrong meaning on 'blood' and that the risk you now perceive is the result of this misinterpretation and not reality.

The behavioural side is to expose yourself to the idea of blood/actual blood and to sit with the anxiety response until you are calm again. This helps your brain to accept that it got the original interpretation wrong and allows it to reassess 'blood' as something non-threatening which doesn't require an anxiety response. 

I suspect reading this you'll think, yes, I understand - except ....well, blood really is threat... isn't it? :unsure: 

That's where you need to do some cognitive work to teach your brain that the way it thinks about blood needs to be normalised. 

It's a bit like filing 'problem' under M instead of P just because the previous receptionist always sorted the office files by the last letter instead of the first letter. There's nothing stopping you from reorganising the office files in a more useful manner, it's just making a choice about whether to stick with the old way of doing things or to update the filing system so it's compatible with the rest of the world and not unique to you. 

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Hi Jess8

I think that CBT with a good therapist will help. Your OCD is affecting your capacity to make rational decisions for example when you stopped a blood transfusion when you had lost a lot of blood.

Over the past ten years I have had a lot of blood tests since I am a diabetic.Plus I take blood tests on a daily basis. I echo Bodger’s comments that you get used to it.  Blood analysis provides a whole lot of useful information - blood sugar, kidney function, liver function.......When I first took samples of my own blood I felt very nervy but withpractice -and exposure- the anxiety calms down. Perhaps as Ashley says, planned exposure might be the route to take. 

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Hi all,

I was diagnosed with OCD/blood phobia in 2004. Jess, I feel for you because I am the same. Public toilets are extremely difficult for me also, because of the woman factor (again, no spelling it out ☺️). 

Over the years I have had three goes with CBT treatment from the NHS. The first was the most effective, one to one counselling with graded exposure/response. But we stopped before making real headway into the blood issue. The second was attending an OCD group for 12 sessions. The third was least effective due to the therapist being relatively inexperienced. All this time I have been on citalopram. I still overreact at the sight of anything red, or anything that looks like a syringe or condom (fear of HIV), I have all my avoidance tactics in place.

This forum string has really hit home. Snowbear's comment about "well blood really is a threat isn't it?" hit my particular nail on the head because I've never really made it past that part ?. A little over a week ago I self referred for more NHS treatment, I hoped to get help with my OCD and overeating (another unhelpful anxiety busting technique ). I've been referred to a "worry club" (for five sessions) and want to throw my hands up in the air with frustration!

I'm not sure what else to say, except that I'm weary of it and wish there was a simple solution. I can't actually imagine being OCD free.

thanks for listening/reading and any advice would be appreciated.


Edited by Molly Doodles

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Well the fix for OCD is fairly simple in that there's not a whole lot to it. But it can be the devil to put into practice. It takes a lot of hard work and sticking to the right plan. 

You've got to work on the cognitive side (where you learn the world is not as scary as your OCD says), you've got to work on identifying and stopping compulsions and you have to do some exposure work.

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