Drawing Blood

This is really a subset of a larger and forthcoming post about anxiety from the medical/dental profession in general, however, drawing blood is more significant for me for two reasons. The first is a matter of personal history – when I was in my early 20’s I was giving blood for a routine physical and abruptly fainted. This was the first time I experienced this and it was a horrifically unsettling. Up until this point in my life I had not identified at all with having anxiety or it’s symptoms. For example at this point in my life I had no anxiety from flying. This was the point when I began to realize I may not always be able to control something that I fear, though it stayed relatively specific to only giving blood for some time afterwards (i.e. it didn’t “crossover” to flying or dentists for some time).

Secondly, giving blood produces the most intense physical symptoms of anxiety than any other triggers. Despite the fact the procedure is relatively short, less than a minute even, I can easily go from a resting heart rate and no symptoms to full fainting. Flying, for example, usually produces a low-grade anxiety symptom chain that lasts longer but is more manageable. The importance of my reaction to drawing blood is important because it drives the oother triggers by being the worst case scenario possible (which it is, anxirty related symptoms are harmless for one’s health). For example, with flying, I think ultimately the fear I have is the symptoms will progress to the stage they have giving blood, and that feeling of being out of control is the primary driver in the first place. It’s the Catch-22 all over again.

This trigger also differs because it doesn’t seem to be eased by being “hidden,” or when strangers to see me. Although I have given blood a number of times since I have not fainted (I got pretty light headed once), I still have anxiety symptoms beforehand thinking about it, and can feel a blood rush during the procedure.

One aspect of this blog for me was to start coming to terms with my anxieties. For instance, I take some comfort in knowing that the symptoms from drawing blood are really about ‘as bad as it gets.’ Anxiety symptoms, though certainly uncomfortable, are very manageable and not dangerous in any physical way. And if anxiety is a “run-a-way” train, in terms of cascading symptoms, so too is the eventual, and inevitable, recovery.

Anxiety Rating (out of 10): 10


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One Response to “Drawing Blood”

  1. Colby Olson Says:

    As a phlebotomist, I think the person drawing blood as a factor to your anxiety in addition to the ones you’ve stated.

    If the person drawing blood is competent in their work, you should hardly feel the needle entering the skin/vein. Not only that, but they should comfort you and make you feel comfortable, it isnt supposed to feel like some sort of cattle-line where you sit down, milked for blood, and sent off.

    Best of luck on your next blood donation, and if it helps, look away next time!

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