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Fears And Phobias


EFT for fear of blood tests: Anorexia patient is able to receive hospital treatment

Important Note: This article was written prior to 2010 and is now outdated. Please use my newest advancement, Optimal EFT. It is more efficient, more powerful and clearly explained in my free e-book, The Unseen Therapist™.  Best wishes, Gary

Hi Everyone,

Steve Eriksen from the UK takes us through a successful experience with a VERY STUBBORN fear. In this case, the fear had to be overcome or the client would likely die.

Hugs, Gary

By Steve Eriksen

Hi Gary,

I thought you might be interested in this case study.  My client was close to death from anorexia – so close the doctors gave her hours or a few days at most to live when she was finally admitted to the hospital.

But her problem was she needed to have blood tests on admittance – without them they couldn’t treat her.  And my client was strongly phobic to blood tests.  Although Elizabeth reacted extremely well to treatment she was definitely a case of 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Or rather, 10 steps forward, 9 steps back.


Elizabeth (not her real name) had a strong phobia for blood tests which was stopping her getting the treatment she needed for her anorexia.  Although she was very close to death from lack of nutrition, the doctors at the hospital couldn't help Elizabeth unless she was willing to submit to blood tests.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth's fear of blood tests was stronger than her fear of dying from anorexia.  As an adult the hospital needed her consent before taking the tests. 

The phobia came from several angles, including feeling out of control, feeling abandoned by her mother during a blood test as a child, pain during previous blood tests, and of course, as an anorexic, successful treatment following blood tests would mean weight gain.

Although Elizabeth didn’t like needles, the phobia was much more about blood tests.  She had been given injections successfully several times as an adult, and had relatively little problem with this, so we couldn't focus on a specific thing like the needle and syringe.

At the end of the first treatment we had made great strides.  At the beginning just the mention of a blood test made Elizabeth feel physically sick, and when we started describing the process she would go through she had very strong phobic reactions. There were many aspects such as rolling up her sleeves, showing her arms, the tightening of a strap around her arm, the light tapping on her blood vessels to make a vein stand out, etc.

We continued treatment for over an hour on this process, and by the end of the treatment Elizabeth was able to go through the whole procedure in theory.  That is, we would describe the process aloud whilst performing the actions: rolling up her sleeve, putting our fingers around her arm to represent the strap, tapping on the veins, describing how we would take the needle, put it in and pull her blood out, then pull the needle out.

However, people with anorexia tend to suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain, causing problems with memory, reasoning and more.  Elizabeth therefore had problems sustaining benefits from the first session, and when we started the second session Elizabeth had slipped back to the point she was reacting nearly as strongly again to the suggestion of blood tests.  It seemed virtually most of the progress had been lost.

In the second session we performed further treatments.  We worked on many of the aspects that trigger her fear of blood tests, such as seeing a needle and hearing the crackling of the wrapping. We had obtained a needle from the local doctor's surgery for this purpose.

We were very worried Elizabeth would take a step backwards again, or that we hadn’t covered every aspect of her phobia.  The second treatment took place the afternoon before she went to the hospital – if we hadn’t managed to cover every aspect, and she refused to have the blood test done, she couldn’t be admitted, and she would likely have died.

So we decided to use as many techniques as we could to avoid triggering the phobia.  Often a phobia is triggered by certain sights, feelings, touch or smells, so we asked Elizabeth to describe everything she could think of that was a part of the experience.

Next, we used EFT to build up new associations using Choices.  The crackling of the unwrapping of the needle represented unwrapping a specific gift she'd been given in the past.  The tightening of the strap around the arm became her boyfriend hugging her tightly.  The smell of the hospital became associated with her grandmother, who was always cleaning and therefore surrounded by smells of cleaning products.

There might have been other things she could see or sounds that would trigger the phobia.  We therefore decided to direct her attention elsewhere by asking her to play loud music through headphones, and look away and describe out loud items on the wall, before and during the blood tests.

Bear in mind that in the past, Elizabeth’s full attention and focus had been on the blood test itself – watching carefully the needle going in, how the blood was extracted, watching the needle being pulled out.  She had problems with all of these aspects and they all acted as strong triggers.  By diverting her attention away from these aspects we hoped we significantly decreased the chance of the phobia being triggered.

The treatment plan for Elizabeth to use during blood tests consisted of a number of steps:

- Inform the doctor or nurse that Elizabeth would use a specific therapy plan to enable her to go through with the blood tests.

- Instruct the doctor or nurse to avoid using the words "blood test" as this could trigger specific a phobic reaction.  Instead, the doctor or nurse was instructed to tell Elizabeth it was time to listen to her music.

- Use the EFT treatment routine as taught during the sessions.

- Employ distraction techniques during the blood tests, including looking away, concentrating and describing to herself or out loud items in the room.

- Have music playing loud using an MP3 player to drown out any sounds and to help overwhelm the senses.

GC COMMENT: In my experience, these distraction type techniques rarely work by themselves. Combining them with EFT can bring much greater results. Also, my guess is that further probing for specific memories regarding blood work would bring even greater benefits.

STEVE CONTINUES: As Elizabeth's memory was suffering, this plan was provided on a sheet of paper, laminated for longevity and protection, showing the complete treatment points on one side and the specific instructions to Elizabeth on the other side.  The doctor or nurse was also provided with an information sheet.

Were the distraction techniques using music and looking away describing items really necessary? We’ll never know, but Elizabeth believes this was key to her managing to go through with the tests.  Having complete instructions written out was critical as well to ensure success as Elizabeth said she wasn’t able to remember it on her own.

Let me also add that Elizabeth was told to keep tapping throughout the procedure, starting as early as possible and only stopping when it was completed.  We did this to ensure any aspect we hadn’t covered would be tackled as soon as it arose.

This procedure proved to be a complete success.  Elizabeth stayed in hospital for 3 weeks.  The doctors were extremely happy with her progress.  They marveled at the effectiveness of the techniques Elizabeth used during her blood tests.

In fact, the consultant in charge saw Elizabeth's reactions when blood tests were discussed before admission, and he believed Elizabeth wouldn't be able to do them, and therefore wouldn't be able to get treatment she needed.  He was amazed how well Elizabeth dealt with these tests!

Elizabeth had 8 blood tests in the end, one of these was very incompetently carried out.  A nurse completely missed the correct spot, taking the blood too far down on the arm and collapsing the vein.  Yet Elizabeth coped extremely well with the ordeal, and has had more tests since.

In Elizabeth's own words: "You saved my life!", and we are happy to say that Elizabeth is continuing her treatment for anorexia with us for the foreseeable future, until she's again a healthy and well-adjusted person.

If you’re interested in the chart and instructions I gave to Elizabeth, just email me and ask!

Warmest regards,

Steve Eriksen


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