The main problem with phobias is their capacity to override rational thought. Your phobia does not care if ‘spiders are more scared of you’ or that ‘flying is the safest form of transport’. Instead, we just become fixated on escape. Nothing else matters.
This is why we need professional help to overcome them. They are involuntary, powerful, and rarely ‘just vanish’ on their own.
What Type of Phobia Do You Have?
The fear of flying
The classic modern-day phobia. The fear of flying causes an intense fear of air travel (navigating the airport, the doors closing, take off, turbulence, etc.) which usually starts days or weeks before the flight. At its worse, the fear of flying ruins holidays. We worry about getting there and then worry about the flight back.
This fear is not entirely irrational. All forms of travel carry some risk, and I’ll receive more enquiries whenever air travel hits the headlines. However, this phobia isn’t just a simple fear of crashing. It is usually more complex than that.
I’ve helped many people with their fear of flying, and I understand the issues at play – even in stubborn cases. Email me to find out more.
Other common phobias:
Driving. People become fearful of driving for various reasons. Sometimes the causes are obvious: accidents, near misses, etc. Sometimes the reasons are more obscure, e.g. a recent bereavement or bullying at work. Typical triggers include motorways, bridges, and busy junctions.
Performance/public speaking. People often struggle under scrutiny, especially when their performance is being judged. This phobia includes public speaking (presentations, best man speeches), driving tests, music and sports performance, and academic exams.
Medical/dental. These phobias include visits to the doctors or dentists; health anxieties, needles, or a fear of infection, and bodily matters such as a fear of blood, vomit, or choking. We can also become fixated on (or afraid of) needing the toilet in public.
Environmental. People sometimes become fearful of their environment. Over the years I’ve helped people overcome their fear of heights, deep water, microbes and infection, and debris such as syringes.
Animals.Many people acquire animal phobias, e.g. spiders, dogs, or rodents. Spider phobias can be particularly upsetting. The cooler weather around autumn creates an annual misery as spiders take up residence in people’s homes, and foreign travel can also a significant problem.
Social anxiety. Social anxiety can sometimes strengthen into a complex fear of people and social interactions. This results in anxiety whenever we encounter social situations; even queuing in a shop can cause panic. Other examples of social phobia include eating or writing in front of others.
Agoraphobia and claustrophobia. Agoraphobia is misunderstood as a fear of open spaces, but it is often more complex than this. Agoraphobia and claustrophobia cause people to panic whenever an ‘escape route’ is denied to them. Typical examples include sitting on buses or trains or feeling outside of our ‘comfort zone’. Even visits to foreign cities can be difficult.
Phobias are diverse and complex. Untreated, they spiral out of control and limit our choices in life. To start overcoming your phobia, it helps to know how they work. Read on to find out more.
What causes phobias?
Phobias rarely have a single cause, but there are the three main factors to consider:
Previous traumatic or painful events. The experience of being bitten by a dog can then ‘sensitise’ a fear of dogs. These sensitising events can sometimes be quite subtle. For instance, frequent unpleasant experiences on a plane can ‘build up’ over time to create a flying phobia – they are not always caused by a single traumatic episode.
Learned responses. We can learn fears from our parents, siblings, and other significant adults – especially in childhood. For example, watching your mother feel anxious on a plane can cause you to fear it too.
Confidence and overthinking. Phobias are less likely to develop when we feel confident and in control. If our confidence is lower than it should be, or if we’re prone to anxious overthinking, we are more vulnerable to forming irrational fears.
When trying to understand your phobia, it is important to consider negative childhood experiences (although sometimes we just cannot remember; hypnotherapy can help with this). When younger, we tend to take difficult events to heart more, because our brains are still making sense of the world. This then leads us to form fears that stay with us into adulthood.
Sometimes, phobias develop for unknown or complex reasons. This is where we especially need the help of a skilled professional.
How to Remove Phobias
Removing phobias can be reasonably straightforward. There are three main aims:
Desensitise past experiences, i.e. locate and desensitise those experiences that created the phobia. This is carried out using the ‘rewind technique’ exercise, which is very effective for phobia work.
Improved ability to stay calm. Phobias are obviously upsetting. With practice, you can learn to stay calm in the moment. This means remaining in control and free of upset; a mindset that eradicates anxiety and restores calm.
Change your thinking about your phobia. Phobias often create blind panic. Instead, we can improve your ability to think rationally. This also helps with anticipatory anxiety.
No two phobias are the same, but there are common factors to be aware of. My skill as a therapist lies in selecting the right tools for you: how the phobia developed, the nature of your fear, and your ability to remain calm and in control.
To request further information or to book a session please contact me on 07908681758 or email