Fears and Phobias

fear and phobiaAt my practice in Warrington, I see many people who suffer from fears and phobias and these conditions can range from moderate fears to severe and debilitating fears, to the extent that the sufferer brings into effect avoidance tactics and safety behaviours that completely remove them from ever encountering the feared situation.

Avoiding the phobic situation is one way of trying to feel safer, however, this exacerbates the problem further. The reason for this is that the brain starts to learn that the feared situation is even more dangerous than before, hence the reason for avoiding it.

The brain, or the unconscious part of the brain doesn’t really know the difference between real life danger and perceived or imagined danger. The parts of the mind responsible for the fear are the ‘Thalamus’ and the ‘Hypothalamus’. These feed information to each other in micro seconds and are responsible for what we know as the ‘fight or flight response’. This is the hardwired and innate reaction in all humans to danger. So if a car mounted the pavement and came zooming toward you, the body would be flooded with adrenaline, the heart would pump faster and the blood in the body floods into the muscles and the organs to help you protect yourself so you can quickly move out of the way.

The unfortunate reality is that because the subconscious doesn’t understand the difference between reality and fantasy, the fight or flight response may be triggered in situations where there is no real danger but rather a perception of danger. This can cause extreme fear or even panic attacks in situations that for most of us are entirely safe and normal.

phobias and panic

Let me give a quick example. Someone could have had an accident on a flight of stairs, they may have fallen down a number of steps
and hurt themselves. The pain, the falling, the sense of being out of control and the embarrassment of falling in front of others, can quickly become very prominent in the mind. That person may then use a faulty thinking style that because it has happened once it will happen again in all future situations.

The affected individual may then start to think about this all the time and then next time they approach some stairs they start to feel extreme fear or panicabout the situation. The fight or flight response is triggered and the only way the person can rid themselves of this intense fear is to remove themselves from the situation and they go and find a lift to use rather than the stairs.

This phobia may then become attached to all stairs, escalators and any other situation where the person may fall or trip. This kind of phobia is called bathmophobia. Nearly every fear has a name, but the name isn’t really important to the individual, they just want to feel normal again.

The same form of attachment in a fear or phobia can be exactly the same for a fear of dogs, fear of spiders, fear of driving, fear of flying etc. And these fears can really interrupt the life style of the individual.

phobiasIf you look at it further you can see that stairs, steps or slopes aren’t really dangerous, most of us don’t even think about this, but to the phobic person they become magnified and very important. All rationale seems to go out of the window. For example, with a person who is afraid of dogs they will ignore the fact that most dogs aren’t dangerous and are in fact quite friendly and that dog attacks are quite rare. But, the fear is so intense that the person simply cannot rationalise this. They begin to avoid all situations where they may encounter a dog, parks for example. Then they may start to avoid the roads leading to the parks and then town centres etc.

Fear and phobic reactions can stick around for many years unless they are challenged. Using a very structured approach of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy we can start to unravel the reasons for the fear and rationalise them.

The fear may have been acquired through a number of means.

1. Learned behaviour: Seeing a parent or someone else reacting to a situation or object in a certain way. E.g. seeing your mum or dad jumping or screaming when they saw a wasp or spider. The child learns that this is the correct behaviour to display in that situation.

2. Sensitising event: Something initiated the fear. E.g. Falling down some stairs, witnessing a dog biting someone, being involved in a car accident.

The phobia can be a simple phobia or fear of an object or situation and may develop into what we call a complex phobia such as social phobia or agoraphobia.

If the underlying issues can be treated and the thinking part of your mind readjusted then the phobia can start to be tackled. Normally we would also use graded exposure to the problem and this can be in hypnosis or ‘in vivo’ exposure which means doing it in the real world.

If you wish to be free of your fear and phobia then why not drop me a call or an email and start that journey in gaining back control in your life.

Image top, courtesy of graur codrin, http://freedigitalphotos.net