This section of the site is all about phobias: what they are; how they affect us; how to overcome them. In this section, I will write about a few individual fears – helping you deal with the most common ones, such as fear of spiders (and insects and animals in general!), fear of flying, fear of dentists, and a few more. I also tell you how to deal with fears in a general way – so that you can overcome your own individual fears.
A definition. I think it’s best to start by defining exactly what is meant by the word ‘phobia’. To be clear, it is normal to be frightened by frightening things or events. Phobias are much more than that – more extreme. They are abnormal reactions to normal things and events. So here are a few definitions:
“A phobia is a type of anxiety disorder, in which there is a persistent and unreasonable fear of an object or situation.” (Gross R et al, “Psychology – a new introduction.” 2nd edition. Hodder & Stoughton. 2000)
MedlinePlus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/) describes phobia as: “a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger.”
The UK mental health organisation, Mind, describes phobia as: “an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation (eg. going outside) or object (eg. buttons).”
The UK patient health information organisation, http://www.patient.co.uk, describes it as: “a strong fear or dread of a thing or event, which is out of proportion to the reality of the situation.”
You may have noticed a common link in those definitions: unreasonable; irrational; out of proportion; unrealistic. Additionally, one of the key components of a phobia is that it is beyond conscious control. As I said above, it is normal to be frightened by things that are frightening, but phobics are frightened by normal things. For example, most people are not afraid to go out of their own house; most people do not think it might be somehow dangerous to go outside. It’s quite normal to go out of your own house, but people who suffer from agoraphobia are afraid to go out into open spaces.
Phobics experience a number of debilitating symptoms when faced with the phobic condition. I have written a page about the symptoms – follow this link:
The good news for sufferers is that there are a number of different methods of dealing with the fear. So, this section will help you overcome your own fears. There are a number of techniques that can be used – both by using hypnosis or self hypnosis, and also as conscious (awake or aware) interventions. I go into more detail about these techniques on another page, but the main methods that an individual can use to overcome fears are:
- Positive phobia replacement. The objective of this technique is to replace negative associations with positive associations.
- Visualise positive outcomes in the phobic situation.
- Face the beast. There are a number of techniques that involve being in the phobic situation (either in a body or in imagination).
- Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale (SUDS). This is the cornerstone of a technique known as systematic desensitisation and can be carried out in trance or as an ‘awake’ intervention.
- Regression can be used to find the root cause of the fear