What is a phobia?

A phobia is an overwhelming, irrational and debilitating fear of absolutely anything at all. It can range from the fear of places, people, flying, food, a feeling, spiders, small spaces … the list is endless. Phobias are more highly pronounced than general fears and become evident when a person appears to have a highly exaggerated, or unrealistic sense of danger about their particular fear. Phobias can develop due to a number of contributory factors and are often a symptom of another condition such as anxiety disorder and/or stress. In fact, phobias are actually a form of anxiety disorder.

Unfortunately, for the sufferer, the fear is extremely real and frightening and their response when faced with their fear /phobia is often both physical and mental. When a phobia becomes severe and out of control, the individual in question may begin to find themself re-organising their whole life around avoiding the thing that is causing them anxiety. This will restrict their; opportunities, their quality of day-to-day life, their work and personal relationships. Overall, it can also cause a lot of unnecessary distress and unhappiness.

We often hear expressions like; “I was paralysed with fear” or “I get butterflies in my stomach” - This reaction or symptom is referred to as a ‘The Stress Response’ or the 4 Fs,

  • Fight (Attack)

  • Flight. (Run away)

  • Freeze (Do nothing and hope it will go away)

  • Fawn (Will try to appeal and be compliant to that that represents perceived danger, and give in in the hope of achieving safety. They will forfeit their needs and rights).

When a person is experiencing any form of fear, The Stress Response is triggered by the limbic system. This is our inner security system and survival mechanism that allows humans to respond to anything that is perceived as life threatening. When we are faced with any perceived danger, either physical, or emotional the brain makes a judgment and decides how the body should react. This decision is made based on our sense of sight, hearing and our feelings, as well as what is stored in our memory of previous experiences. If the situation is judged as being dangerous or stressful, the brain immediately sends a message to the part of the brain that is responsible for the memory of emotions, most especially fear and caution. As soon as the brain detects danger and fear, it immediately sends a distress signal to the control centre of the brain, which triggers the ‘stress response’. This sends a message to the whole of the body to react accordingly, which is often to avoid, run away, hide etc. This is what is happening when we experience a fear, or a phobia.

The constant stress of this stress reaction on a regular basis puts the body and mind under a considerable amount of pressure and ‘wear and tear’, often causing physical and mental illness. The stress response was designed to help us react in dangerous situations preparing is to react quickly. If this happens continually, it is only natural that the body and mind will begin to struggle.

How do I know if I have a Phobia?

People with phobias typically realise that their response is irrational, however, this does not make it any easier for them not to react in this way. Depending upon the seriousness of the phobia and how it affects their life, it can make it very difficult as they are constantly aware how much it stops them doing, and causes anxiety, frustration and embarrassment for them at times. Phobias are far more common than many people realise, in fact, a large percentage of the population in the UK have some kind of irrational fear. A lot of people are able to manage their phobia on a day-to-day basis and only really seek help from a hypnotherapist when it prevents them doing something that they really want, or need to do. It can also be when they know that they are going to be forced to address and face up to their fear. Many people are also concerned about unconsciously passing on their phobias onto their children.

There are some people who are unaware of their phobia and will not actually experience any symptoms until directly faced with the source of it, and it may come as somewhat of a shock. However, in many cases, even thinking about the source of a phobia can make creates feelings of anxiety, fear and or panic. This is known as anticipatory anxiety.

Common Symptoms of anxiety may include:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Uncontrollable shaking

  • Butterflies in the stomach and upset stomach

  • Feeling dizzy, disorientated and lightheaded

  • Feeling nauseous

  • Extreme perspiration/sweating

  • Increased heart rate or/or palpitations

What causes phobias?

It is a natural and necessary part of the body’s natural defence system to feel and experience some fear. Often phobias are exaggerated fears of evolutionary memories; imprints on our brains that help protect us through caution, making us innately aware of something that could harm us.

As a young child we generally learn our fears from our parents and other respected adults, as they teach us how to live and relate to the world around us, and fear is relevant and necessary part of this. Watching fearful behaviour from a parent or older relative can instinctively hardwire our brains to see the same threat as they do, and therefore it is natural to believe that it can harm you too, even if their fear is irrational. The more one sees this type of behaviour, the more the fear becomes reinforced, compounding the problem and at times creating an irrational fear or phobia. In short, phobias do not have a single cause as such, as there are a number of associated factors. Below are some examples:

  • A phobia could be associated with a particular incident or trauma

  • It 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 that some people are born with a tendency to be more anxious than other

Types of Phobia: Whilst there are many types of phobias, they can be broadly divided into two main categories:

  • Specific or simple phobias: Specific, or simple phobias tend to focus on an object, animal, situation or activity, and they generally develop during childhood or adolescence. These can disappear or become much less defined and severe with age depending on the circumstance and the individual. Examples include:

  • Animal phobias: Fear of snakes, spiders, etc

  • Environmental phobias: Such as heights, germs

  • Situational phobias: Such as fear of the dentist or flying

  • Body phobias: Such as blood, vomit or having injections, disease

  • Sexual phobias: Performance anxiety, or sexual health

The most common phobias seen by hypnotherapists are:

  • Fear of flying

  • Claustrophobia

  • Fear of sickness (often linked to social phobias)

  • Fear of insects

  • Fear of heights

  • Fear of needles

  • Fear dentists

  • Fear of Pregnancy

  • Fear of water

Complex phobias The two most common complex phobias are:

Agorophobia This is not only a fear of open spaces, it's much more complex. Someone with agoraphobia will feel anxious about being in a place or situation where escaping may be perceived as difficult should they have a panic attack. It often develops as a complication of panic disorder, which is an anxiety disorder that involves intense panic and fear in certain situations. If they make an association with a situation or place with where a panic attack has occurred before, they will feel an overwhelming urge to avoid the situation or place.

It is common for people with agoraphobia to have a history of panic attacks. In these cases, their fear may be related to issues like a fear of crime, terrorism, illness, or being in an accident. Traumatic events, such as bereavement can also contribute towards agoraphobia, it is also thought to be genetic in some cases.

Social Phobia also referred to as social anxiety disorder, centres around feeling anxious in social situations. This anxiety usually results in the person avoiding situations such as:

  • Being alone and lonely

  • Being in crowded places, such as busy restaurants or supermarkets

  • Travelling on public transport

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 totally debilitating and may prevent you from carrying out everyday activities, such as going to work, eating out or meeting friends.

How can Hypnotherapy help with Phobias and Fears?

Hypnotherapy is already a very effective way to help reduce feelings of anxiety, and has become more widely recognised as an effective method for treating it.  As phobias are commonly linked or caused by anxiety, it makes sense that hypnotherapy can also be very effective in helping people with their phobias.

Generally, hypnotherapy aims to get to the root cause of the anxiety by using hypnosis and targeted questioning, which will lead to the release the negative emotions associated with their anxiety, and or fear/phobia. This process helps to bring about change in your thoughts, feelings and beliefs about the causes of your anxiety, allowing you to move forward in life without feeling fearful, trapped and overwhelmed. This transformation is frequently accompanied by an increase in confidence and self-belief, dramatically changing your life and opening up many new possibilities that had previously been holding you back. It enables you to develop a calm and peaceful state of mind that will help you to deal with life much more calmly, easily and effectively.

Once, the root of the cause of the phobia has been isolated, generally, the solution is to help the individual to see their phobia in a different context starting from an objective perspective and then gradually building up exposure from a minimal to comfortable level. NLP techniques will often be used to great effect at the suggestion part of the session. Using hypnosis this reframing and positive suggestions can be done easily as the unconscious is able to process information more effectively without the interference of the critical mind.

Depending on the severity and the depth of the issue itself, as well as the fear attached to the phobia, it can sometimes be treated in just one or two sessions. There is no guarantee as change depends on the individual’s willingness to collaborate with the hypnotherapist, to embrace the treatment and how receptive you are to change and of course the severity of the phobia itself.  You can always be assured that the approach taken will be very much ‘tailored to the individual. Hypnotherapy can also help you to relax using visualization techniques to help desensitize you to your fear and help you to form new habits.

How does it work?

The hypnotherapist will collaborate with you find the root cause of your anxiety by accessing your unconscious mind.  This will begin with an initial in depth conversation/consultation about you, what issues you are having, the levels of severity of your phobia and the common triggers. It will also be very important at this stage to determine exactly what you hope to achieve from hypnotherapy. This will also help the therapist to understand you as a person, and to find the best way in which to help you. In the case of phobias, this may or may not  involve some Hypno-analysis. This will only happen with your permission, as it helps the therapist and you to understand the reasons and ‘triggers’ for your phobia. As a phobia is a form of anxiety disorder, it may well go deeper.  The use of hypno-analysis makes the final results more long-term and permanent, as it will give you the opportunity to sub-consciously release your negative emotions before being offered more positive suggestions. If however, you just want to work with the phobia itself and go straight to positive suggestion, this may well be effective in some instances.

If you opt for some hypno-analysis, once the negative emotions have been released, the hypnotherapist will ‘hand-craft’ personal positive suggestions specifically for you, in order to promote positive change. These suggestions will be specifically ‘tailored’ to target your triggers for your phobia and will help you to control and deal with them and react more positively when faced with them.. It will also help you to understand what triggers your phobias, so that you know how to cope with it in a calm and controlled manner.

Whilst hypnotherapy cannot change what has happened in the past, it can help you to change how you think, feel and behave to any given situation, or object, person and so on. It will also help you to gain/regain control of your life and will allow you to experience a normal and fulfilling life again.

Hypnotherapy for Phobias and/or Fears

The success rate of using hypnotherapy for phobias is now widely accepted and increasingly successful in helping people to transform their lives and release their full potential. Often by releasing this fear people’s lives are completely transformed.  It is important to understand that whilst in hypnosis (trance), you will never be out of control, or be made to do anything that you feel uncomfortable about

During a Typical hypnotherapy session for a Phobia/Fear

  1. Initial in depth chat/Consultation: Initially you will begin with an in depth chat with the hypnotherapist in order to discuss what you hope to achieve from hypnotherapy. Generally, they will ask you questions about your life so that they can help you to establish any triggers or causes for the way you feel. The more your therapist knows about you as a person, the more she can fully understand what hypnotherapy techniques will be the most helpful for you.

  2. Explanation of Hypnosis: After this initial consultation, your therapist will explain to you how hypnosis works and how it may help you with your anxiety. The whole process will be explained to you, so you fully understand and know what to expect, and to make sure that you are completely comfortable to continue with the session. It is good for you to view your hypnotherapist as a coach/mentor, whose aim will be to facilitate you to bring about positive change in your life.

  3. The Hypnosis Induction: You will then be relaxed in a heighten state of awareness (hypnotic trance), which will be very natural, pleasant, calm and relaxing.

  4. Whilst in Hypnosis (Trance) Regression/Hypno-Analysis: Once you are deeply relaxed and in a trance, your unconscious mind will be more open and receptive. At this point, your hypnotherapist may talk to you and ask you to speak back, depending on what technique they use. Typically, if they will use hypno-analysis to explore the root of your anxiety, they may also use various forms of regression. You may be asked to revisit a times when you have previously felt anxiety, and you will be asked to focus on the feeling and emotion behind the event or experience. This will help you to release the feeling whilst in a trance. By releasing this emotion/s you are making way for new and more constructive and positive beliefs and emotions to replace them.

  5. How Many Sessions? Together, your therapist and you will work together to decide believe will be most effective. After a series of sessions, you will be ready to accept and believe new positive suggestions in relation to your anxiety, and will replace your old negative beliefs and habits with more positive ones.

  6. Positive Suggestions and Mantras: When your therapist is satisfied that you are ready to receive and accept positive suggestions, they will use carefully worded scripts, which will be specifically ‘tailored’ to you to help change any negative beliefs that are holding you back. The idea behind positive suggestions and mantras is that these calming keywords and phrases that will act as a ‘trigger’ to help calm down your conscious mind when dealing with challenging situations and will help you cope with it more rationally and effectively.

  7. After care: Your hypnotherapist will typically check in with you a few days after each treatment via email, to see how things are progressing. They may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques that you can use at home to reinforce the positive suggestions. By practicing these techniques on an ongoing basis is a positive way to continue working on your anxiety to ensure you keep control of it.

Will hypnotherapy for my Phobia work for me?

Hypnotherapy works by changing your perceptions and beliefs about a number of things, including your fears. What is incredibly important that you are ready to make this commitment and are willing to work with your hypnotherapist for this to be successful;