Initial validation of a virtual blood draw exposure paradigm for fear of blood and needles

Academic Article


  • Fear of blood, injections, and needles commonly prevents or delays individuals’ receipt of health care, such as vaccines or blood draws. Innovative methods are needed to overcome these fears and reduce anxiety related to activities of this nature. The present study describes initial testing of an arm illusion paradigm that may prove useful during early phases of graded exposure for people with blood and needle fear. Seventy-four undergraduate students aged 18–29 years were tested. In line with study aims, results indicated that the virtual blood draw paradigm promoted strong perceptions of arm ownership and elicited significant changes in physiological indices (blood pressure, heart rate, electrodermal activity, respiratory rate) in response to key procedure elements (e.g., needle insertion). Further, bivariate correlations indicated that individual differences in self-reported blood and needle fear collected prior to the illusion paradigm were significantly associated with presyncopal symptoms reported following the procedure. In regression analyses, self-reported measures of blood and needle fear explained unique variance in presyncopal symptoms even after controlling for general state anxiety. These findings provide initial support for the virtual blood draw paradigm as a promising tool to help provide graded exposure to medical procedures involving needles and blood draw.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Trost Z; Jones A; Guck A; Vervoort T; Kowalsky JM; France CR
  • Start Page

  • 65
  • End Page

  • 71
  • Volume

  • 51