A phobia is an anxiety disorder
Phobias are far more common than many people realise. In fact, it is estimated that more than 11% of the population have some kind of irrational fear. And that’s what a phobia is – an extreme irrational fear which is a fear without good reason, or a fear of something that may not happen.
People with anxiety disorders like phobias often experience inappropriate responses to animals, objects, insects, actions or places. For example, if you have a fear of spiders just a picture of a spider might cause the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up; even though you know rationally that a spider is not a real threat to you.
Some of the most common phobias treated at The Spence Practice are:
- Social phobias including the fear of public speaking and generally interacting with other human beings
- Fear of animals such as dogs, snakes and cows
- Fear of insects such as spiders, wasps, cockroaches and other ‘creepy crawlies’
- Fear of various forms of travel including flying, trains, boats and driving cars
- Fear of being in certain places such as feeling trapped in small spaces or fearing the world away from home or a fear of heights
- Invasive treatments such as dental work, injections, operations and illness and vomiting
The problem with anxiety symptoms
Whatever the ‘trigger’ is for your fear and panic your conscious mind isn’t able to rationalise the situation. That is because the emotional part of your brain has taken over and tells you to run away. It activates the stress reaction known as the ‘fight/flight response’ which creates physiological changes in the body. People often describe their phobic reaction to something as being ‘paralysed with fear’ or wanting to ‘flee in panic’.
For most people a phobia only becomes a problem when it prevents them from doing or taking part in activities which they enjoy or have to do in their jobs. For example, a roofer who develops a fear of heights, a prison warden who develops claustrophobia or perhaps someone who wants to travel to the other side of the world but has a fear of flying.
People with a social phobia are often afraid of speaking in front of people for fear of embarrassing themselves and being humiliated in public. In severe cases, this can become debilitating and may prevent them from carrying out everyday activities, such as eating out or meeting friends.
A phobia often starts in childhood as a result of a traumatic experience or perhaps from learning the fear from a parent. If, as a young child you see your mother standing on a chair screaming at the sight of a spider, it’s no wonder that you might respond in the same way.
The Solution to anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders
The most common solution is avoidance. By avoiding the trigger for your phobia you can reduce your anxiety levels at the time but unfortunately next time you encounter this trigger you will probably feel even worse so it is a poor long term strategy.
Another solution is using a technique called ‘flooding’ which means confronting your fear head on and literally throwing yourself in the deep end if you have a fear of water. This is a high risk strategy which might work but if it doesn’t it could just traumatise you and make matters worse.
At The Spence Practice I prefer to use an approach called desensitisation which means gradually building up your confidence and exposure step by step so that you start by becoming comfortable in the shallow end of the pool before tackling the deep end. This can be achieved quickly by utilising a combination of hypnosis and cognitive behaviour therapy. A phobia can usually be successfully treated within 1 to 4 sessions of therapy.
I can help you to respond in a different way, so imagine being free of the fear of flying and opening up a new world of adventure and exploration. Think about how you might progress in your career when you no longer have a fear of speaking in public and become a great communicator.
Anxiety disorder success stories
To see how Fiona overcame her fear of spiders and other ‘creepy crawlies’ and travelled to the other side of the world watch this video and read about how Melanie’s lifetime fear of dogs melted away and how Jean can now sleep with the light off.
The next step
To find out more about how I can help put you back in control of your mind and body and improve the quality of your life or to register for a free assessment please submit your details in one of the boxes below.
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