Mother’s phobia of developing varicose veins became so bad she asked doctors to amputate her healthy legs after having several panic attacks a day
Many women worry they will develop varicose veins as they age.
Very few, however, would rather lose their legs than have to look at the veins.
But that is what happened to 39-year-old Claire Jones, whose phobia was so bad that she begged doctors to amputate her healthy legs.
Miss Jones pleaded with her GP to refer her for the operation because her fear of veins was triggering several panic attacks a day.
She said the anxiety made life so difficult that she felt being confined to a wheelchair would be more bearable.
However her GP turned down her request and she has now undergone therapy to help her manage her venephobia.
Miss Jones, a bank cashier from Liverpool, said: ‘When it was refused I wished I could do it myself.’
She added: ‘It’s impossible to live hiding from your own legs and in the end I just thought I could be a better parent without them triggering anxiety all the time.’
The mother-of-three believes her phobia of veins may have been triggered by a botched attempt to remove a wobbly tooth when she was six.
She recalls seeing the tooth dangle from what she thought was a vein and bursting into tears.
She began panicking at the sight of veins, particularly her mother’s varicose veins.
Varicose veins are swollen, dark blue veins, which are often lumpy and raised above the skin.
They affect three in ten adults and women are more likely to develop them than men, especially if they are overweight or pregnant.
Miss Jones said: ‘I would freeze and cry at the sight of them so my mother always knew to wear trousers so I didn’t get upset.’
But as she grew older Miss Jones’s phobia became worse.
She began crossing the street to avoid older women in dresses that might reveal veins and avoided strenuous activities likely to make her own veins bulge.
Miss Jones said: ‘Drawing or swimming with my daughter was impossible because I would start to get anxious seeing the veins in my hands bulge.
‘At work I had to hold them up for the blood to drain down.’
But her phobia got more severe when she developed varicose veins in her own legs three years ago.
She said: ‘I had always struggled looking at them but it got one thousand times worse over night. My biggest fear had come true.
‘Catching sight of them would trigger major anxiety and end up with a full-blown panic attack.
‘Imagine trying to shower, dress and walk to work without seeing your legs.
‘I was struggling to cope and got to the point where I thought life would be easier if I wasn’t trying to avoid my legs all the time.’
She saw her GP who refused the amputation but instead agreed to refer her for surgery to remove the varicose veins.
However, in the past two years she has had two more children and more varicose veins appeared.
She added: ‘Had I known I was going to extend the family I would have waited to have the vein operation as unfortunately they have come back as happens with pregnancy.
‘I just hope this helps people understand because one of the hardest thing about living with a phobia can be being laughed at and judged.
‘Women tell me they would love legs like mine but I just cannot see them that way. To me they are just terrifying.’