Fears and Phobias

ScreamA phobia is the triggering of your instinctive “fight or flight” response by an inappropriate stimulus. This response is very primitive – very basic – and is present in all creatures that are capable of defending themselves or escaping. This is why it’s so difficult to override it, even when you know, consciously, that there is no real danger. About 60% of people will suffer a phobia at some time in their lives.

Over 500 phobias have been identified (www.phobialist.com) and they are divided into two categories; complex phobias and specific phobias. The complex phobias are social phobia (fear of social situations, feeling embarrassed and displaying signs of anxiety in public) and agorophobia – literally “fear of the market place”, but used to describe fears of being in open spaces, crowds, or anywhere outside the sufferer’s ‘comfort zone’, which is usually their own home, or even a specific room in their home. Their main difference from specific phobias is that they can be triggered in a range of different situations, and are often related to other general anxiety disorders.

All other phobias are classed as specific phobias. Some are quite rare, and may seem strange, such as bibliophobia – fear of books. Others, such as acrophobia (fear of heights) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders) are relatively common.

The good news is that all phobias can be cured. “Conventional” therapeutic approaches involve exposure to the feared stimulus, which is usually gradual. For example, someone with a fear of spiders would begin with looking at pictures of them, then handling a plastic toy spider, before moving on to the “real thing”. Another method, less frequently used, is intensive exposure, or “flooding“, in which the person is exposed intensively and continuously until their fear subsides. Psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe demonstrated this technique with a girl who feared travelling in cars (Amaxophobia). After locking her in a car and driving her around for several hours her phobia was cured. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but it works if you can bring yourself to do it.

Which brings us on to hypnosis. There are various ways in which hypnosis can help, using direct suggestion, by going back to the origins of the phobia, by going to a future time when you no longer have the phobia, or by using a combination of these approaches. Sometimes this is sufficient to completely remove the phobia – my client Kirsty (see my guestbook) was recently cured of a phobia of cats in just two sessions. Often a combination of hypnotherapy and gradual “systematic” exposure is necessary to fully address the fear, which is still faster and more effective than exposure therapy alone.

So whatever your fear or phobia is –  – you don’t have to keep living with it, so do something about it. You can email me, or call or text me on 07855352947. Why not do it right now?

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