Fears & Phobias:
A phobia is usually defined as an irrational fear of an animal, object, place, situation or activity, which typically results in a change of behaviour to avoid the cause of the fear, and thus remain 'safe'. This has the unfortunate effect of reinforcing the fear of the object, and the individual is unable to learn that, in fact, they are safe. Phobias are very common and can affect people regardless of gender, age or background.
A phobia is experienced as an overwhelming need to avoid the source of the fear, which can include things that are similar to it, such as a rope looking like a snake. Sometimes the exact nature of a phobia may not be apparent to the person suffering from it, for example a dental phobia might prove to be a needle phobia. When contact cannot be avoided a state of anxiety arises which may lead to panic, (this might also come from just thinking about the object). The level of anxiety will vary from one individual to the next, ranging from mild anxiety to a panic attack. As a result, people seek help for a range of reasons, from wanting to be free from the feeling of embarrassment about having an irrational fear, to seeking to end the often severe impact the phobia is having on their quality of life.
(For further information, and particularly regarding a fear of public speaking, you may also find it helpful to follow the link for 'Anxiety' in the menu on the right).
Phobias can be split into two broad groups:
- simple phobias
Which involve a fear of an animal, object, place, situation or activity. Some common examples include; birds, confined spaces, dentists, flying, heights, needles, snakes, spiders, vomiting, and water.
- complex phobias
Such as social phobias and agoraphobia, (a fear of situations where escape is difficult or help is unavailable). The latter may result in a fear of using public transport, going to a supermarket, and in some cases a fear of leaving home.
Simple phobias often start with a sensitising event, commonly in early childhood. At this age the fear may be quite rational, such as a small child being startled by a large bird, or it is learnt by seeing an adult showing fear, e.g. fear of a spider. A later event will activate the phobia, and is often the first recollection that an individual will have. At this point the fear response will probably be considered irrational, so they feel as if they just 'discovered' they had a phobia, seemingly for no obvious reason.
Complex phobias tend to start later in life, often in adolescence.
Simple phobias can be treated with gradual exposure to the cause of the fear, with each step being carefully graded, and a relaxed state being achieved before moving on to the next step. Hypnosis can be useful as a way of bringing a feared object to mind, in a variety of scenarios, as part of the process of extinguishing the phobia through exposure and desensitisation.
Complex phobias usually involve more psychotherapeutic work, with multiple possible approaches, depending upon individual circumstances. Often responding well to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or ACT, and again hypnosis can be a useful tool within such therapy. In fact, research work undertaken by Assen Alladin has shown Cognitive Hypnotherapy to be more effective than CBT alone. It is also highly flexible, as therapy can be weighted towards the element that a client is most responsive to.
Hypnosis can also be used in an effort to uncover the original cause of the phobia, or at least what is remembered of the event, which may be a memory of strong emotion, rather than historical fact. Once this has been found, the memory can be desensitised, and further work can be done to ensure the person has the resources to cope in future situations. Another approach that can be successfully used to work with phobias is EMDR therapy. So there's more than one route to working with phobias, but they do often reduce rapidly with treatment.
Please note that, as with any talking therapy, results may vary from person to person.
Call me directly on 07831-693684 to make an appointment, or send me an e-mail (there's a 'contact me' link below).
Sessions are at Delta House, near to London Bridge station, SE1, and cost £75.00.