Testing the Paleolithic-human-warfare hypothesis of blood-injection phobia in the Baltimore ECA Follow-up Study—towards a more etiologically-based conceptualization for DSM-V

H Stefan Bracha, O Joseph Bienvenu, William W Eaton
Journal of Affective Disorders 2007, 97 (1-3): 1-4

OBJECTIVE: The research agenda for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) has emphasized the need for a more etiologically-based classification system, especially for stress-induced and fear-circuitry disorders. Testable hypotheses based on threats to survival during particular segments of the human era of evolutionary adaptedness (EEA) may be useful in developing a brain-evolution-based classification for the wide spectrum of disorders ranging from disorders which are mostly overconsolidationally such as PTSD, to fear-circuitry disorders which are mostly innate such as specific phobias. The recently presented Paleolithic-human-warfare hypothesis posits that blood-injection phobia can be traced to a "survival (fitness) enhancing" trait, which evolved in some females of reproductive-age during the millennia of intergroup warfare in the Paleolithic EEA. The study presented here tests the key a priori prediction of this hypothesis-that current blood-injection phobia will have higher prevalence in reproductive-age women than in post-menopausal women.

METHOD: The Diagnostic Interview Schedule (version III-R), which included a section on blood and injection phobia, was administered to 1920 subjects in the Baltimore ECA Follow-up Study.

RESULTS: Data on BII phobia was available on 1724 subjects (1078 women and 646 males). The prevalence of current blood-injection phobia was 3.3% in women aged 27-49 and 1.1% in women over age 50 (OR 3.05, 95% CI 1.20-7.73). [The corresponding figures for males were 0.8% and 0.7% (OR 1.19, 95% CI 0.20-7.14)].

CONCLUSIONS: This epidemiological study provides one source of support for the Paleolithic-human-warfare (Paleolithic-threat) hypothesis regarding the evolutionary (distal) etiology of bloodletting-related phobia, and may contribute to a more brain-evolution-based re-conceptualization and classification of this fear circuitry-related trait for the DSM-V. In addition, the finding reported here may also stimulate new research directions on more proximal mechanisms which can lead to the development of evidence-based psychopharmacological preventive interventions for this common and sometimes disabling fear-circuitry disorder.

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