What is a Phobia?
We all feel nervous or scared at times. Most of us have certain things that we don't particularly like or that we find frightening. Some people hate getting injections or having blood taken because they are squeamish or have a fear of needles or blood. If they can overcome this fear and go and have the treatment anyway, that is not so much of a problem. If, however, they are unable to have a blood test or a regular flu jab because the fear is preventing it, then it becomes a more serious problem and we would define that as a phobia. I enjoy flying...until the turbulence starts and the seat belt sign flashes up. Then, I get a bit nervous. I don't particularly like the feeling. However, it would never stop me from travelling by plane. Someone else might have such a fear that they are unable to visit family or friends because their fear of flying is that extreme that they cannot step foot onto a plane. That is a phobia. If your fear is interfering with your everyday life or stopping you from doing something that you want to do, you most likely have a phobia.
Signs and Symptoms of Phobia
Some people don't even have to be faced with their fear. Even the mere thought of it can bring on uncomfortable and frightening symptoms such as breathlessness, palpitations, a churning stomach, nausea, sweating, shaking and many other physical symptoms.
I think we all agree that a large, venomous snake slithering towards us would be quite frightening. Many phobias stem from a perfectly rational and useful fear of something that could severely harm or even kill us. Our natural instincts kick in and we feel all the physical symptoms of that fight or flight response brought on by adrenaline. It is normal and perfectly natural to want to save yourself from the threat of death. Phobias, however, are described as irrational because there is usually no actual danger attached to them. The person with the phobia knows that the object or situation creating their fear cannot possibly hurt them, yet they cannot control their body's response.
What Causes a Phobia?
Most phobias start in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. It is unusual to develop a phobia over the age of thirty, although not unheard of. Some fears are actually learned from parents. If, for example, you witness your mother breaking down every time she sees a spider, that fear is likely to be passed on to you. Other phobias start with a traumatic experience that leaves the brain connecting an object or situation with that trauma. All the experiences from the initial trauma reoccur when the person is reminded of the situation. For example, somebody who has a negative experience while swimming as a child or young person may go on to develop a general fear of water. Some people will remember exactly when a phobia started, others have no idea where their phobia came from. They may feel as though they have always had it, but there is usually an "initial sensitising event" (ISE) which sparked the fear. However, the good news is that you don't have to know where or how your phobia started to be able to treat it.
How Does Hypnotherapy Help?
Hypnosis is very effective for dealing with phobias. The body doesn't distinguish between real and imagined events and the phobic response can be brought on by imagination alone, as I am sure you know. We can tackle the phobia by using your own imagination but all the time remaining in a safe place and keeping you relaxed and calm. By using a number of different techniques, it is usually possible to deal with it once and for all. We'll use hypnosis during our sessions together and I will also give you practical exercises to do. You'll get a relaxation audio session on mp3 to listen to daily that will help to keep you feeling calm and relaxed. We'll then build up your confidence to make sure you feel completely comfortable about moving forward and tackling any situation that previously led to that phobic reaction.
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