A Phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal.
Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.
If a phobia becomes very severe, a person may organise their life around avoiding the thing that's causing them anxiety. As well as restricting their day-
A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder. You may not experience any symptoms until you come into contact with the source of your phobia.
However, in some cases, even thinking about the source of a phobia can make a person feel anxious or panicky. This is known as anticipatory anxiety.
Symptoms may include:
- unsteadiness, dizziness and lightheadedness
- increased heart rate or palpitations
- shortness of breath
- upset stomach
If you don't come into contact with the source of your phobia very often, it may not affect your everyday life. However, if you have a complex phobia such as agoraphobia (see below), leading a normal life may be very difficult.
Types of phobia
There are a variety of objects or situations that someone could develop a phobia about. However, phobias can be divided into two main categories:
- specific or simple phobias
- complex phobias
The two categories are discussed below:
Specific or simple phobias:
Specific or simple phobias centre around a particular object, animal, situation or activity. They often develop during childhood or adolescence and may become less severe as you get older.
Common examples of simple phobias include:
- animal phobias – such as dogs, spiders, snakes or rodents
- environmental phobias – such as heights, deep water and germs
- situational phobias – such as visiting the dentist or flying
- bodily phobias – such as blood, vomit or having injections
- sexual phobias – such as performance anxiety or the fear of getting a sexually transmitted infection
Complex phobias tend to be more disabling than simple phobias. They tend to develop during adulthood and are often associated with a deep-
Agoraphobia and social phobia are two common complex phobias.
Agoraphobia is often thought of as a fear of open spaces, but it's much more complex than this. Someone with agoraphobia will feel anxious about being in a place or situation where escaping may be difficult if they have a panic attack.
The anxiety usually results in the person avoiding situations such as:
- being alone
- being in crowded places, such as busy restaurants or supermarkets
- travelling on public transport
Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, centres around feeling anxious in social situations.
If you have a social phobia, you might be afraid of speaking in front of people for fear of embarrassing yourself and being humiliated in public.
In severe cases, this can become debilitating and may prevent you from carrying out everyday activities, such as eating out or meeting friends.
What causes phobias?
Phobias can have a number of associated factors or causes. For example:
- a phobia may be associated with a particular incident or trauma
- a phobia may be a learned response that a person develops early in life from a parent or sibling (brother or sister)
- genetics may play a role – there's evidence to suggest some people are born with a tendency to be more anxious than others
How common are phobias?
Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder. It's estimated that around 10 million people in the UK have a phobia.
They can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex and social background. Some of the most common phobias include:
- arachnophobia – fear of spiders
- claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces
- agoraphobia – fear of open spaces and public places
- social phobia – fear of social situations
Case Study 1: Phobias
Julie came to see me for help in overcoming her phobia of going into and using lifts in public places. Julie had this extreme phobia of lifts for a period of 45 years, so much so that she couldn’t go near a lift. Extreme fear and shaking would occur. This fear generalised into other aspects of her life whereby going into small confined spaces would trigger fear and anxiety. Julie did not know the original cause and situation when this began as an issue in her life. Enjoyment in her life was affected to the extent that on occasion she couldn’t go places because of her fear. This also impacted enjoyment in her relationships.
Julie wanted to be able to be normal and go into public buildings like everyone else.
The work I carried out with Julie took place over 3 separate sessions. Each session would build on the next, during which her perception of herself and the world around her began to change. When she came back to see me after the first 2 sessions she reported accomplishing things she never did before, such as going into smaller rooms, and actually going into a small cupboard under the stairs in her house and closing the door so that it was completely dark. Julie told me that for many years she had an extreme fear of even going into the cupboard beneath the stairs. Halfway through our third session I knew it was time to help her take control and that she was ready, and so we went together down the hallway where there was a lift in a building with seven floors. We entered the lift and rode the lift to floor 3 and back down, then all the way up to the seventh floor. We got out of the lift on the seventh floor and Julie rejoiced, cried and was so happy because she knew now that her life had changed forever.
Looking out of the window on the seventh floor, Julie phoned her husband who was sitting in his car in the car park below. She said ‘get out your car and look up to the window on the 7th floor’. He couldn’t believe what he saw. Julie and I took the lift back down to meet her husband. I then let them ride up and down the lift together for a while. She was absolutely ecstatic.
From that day onwards Julie has moved forwards in her life to have new experiences, new confidence and greater enjoyment generally. She has grown even closer to her husband, family and friends. This has shown how effective NLP and Hypnotherapy is in helping a person transform their life.
Case Study 2: Phobias
Karen came to see me for help in overcoming a phobia of spiders which she had endured for twenty three years. Any kind or size of spider would result in a severe panic for Karen, with the result that she would have to run away out of the room or near vicinity of the perceived threat. The reaction was worse if the spider was moving.
Karen wanted to feel ok when she saw a spider, and be able put it outside.
The work I carried out with Karen took 3 sessions. The first session concentrated around ‘how’ the phobia manifested itself, i.e. how she created the feelings of panic. Subsequent sessions involved building resources and resilience into her attitude and perception. Also, the NLP therapy included using the famous NLP Fast Phobia Cure, which was instrumental in breaking up the fear pattern which was at the centre of Karen’s Phobic reaction to spiders.
Results were very fast with Karen. Almost immediately after Karen’s 3rd session she was confronted with a very large spider which was hanging from curtains just above her head, about a foot away. Karen didn’t react. She didn’t like the spider, however the main thing was she didn’t panic and run. Instead she remained resourceful and calm and simply got someone to remove it. Karen’s resilience continued to improve to the extent that spiders don’t trigger her into panic and instead she can collect them in a box or container and remove them to the outside environment. Karen now feels great about going to visit her daughter in Australia. For many years Karen hasn’t visited her daughter because of her fear of spiders, especially in Australia.
On every occasion when I work with a client with a phobia, I use the NLP fast phobia technique, and every time it helps create results. Used together with other therapeutic approaches, the fast phobia technique is very powerful in creating changes.