If you suffer from an acute fear or phobia then you are far from alone. In fact, phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder, with an estimated 10 million people in the UK suffering with some form of phobia (1).
A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear of, or aversion to, something. Of course we all have aspects of our lives that we are non-too fond of. For instance, most people don't particularly look forward to injections, or visits to the dentist. But what separates a rational fear or strong dislike from a phobia?
A phobia can be defined by the extremity of the fear. If you're suffering with a phobia, being exposed to your feared object or situation may bring on overwhelming feelings of anxiety as well as any of these physical symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
- Sweating / hot flushes
- Trembling / shaking / chills
- Dizziness / feeling faint
- Nausea / a churning stomach
- Shortness of breath / a choking sensation
- Chest pain
- Numbness, or pins & needles
- Dry mouth
- A need to go to the toilet
- Tinging in your ears
- A feeling of dread / a fear of dying
Phobias can take many forms, and feared situations or objects can include anything and everything. Certain phobias are quite common, such as fear of spiders, flying, injections, heights, dogs, etc. But some people suffer from less common phobias; such as fear of oranges, phones, or even a particular number or colour.
Sometimes phobias can have an acute effect on the sufferer's life. For instance, the extreme fear of childbirth (Tokophobia) can result in a whole host of symptoms and undesirable behaviours for the sufferer, often expressed in a similar way to social phobias. A woman suffering from extreme Tokophobia may go as far as to avoid social situations where men may be present for fear that a subsequent connection or relationship could ultimately lead to childbirth. Some women are never able to overcome their fear and remain childless throughout life.
Specific phobias are often childhood fears that were never outgrown. In certain instances they may develop after a traumatic event, such as excessive turbulence during a flight, a big dog jumping up exuberantly, or a visit to the dentist.
Phobia-sufferers are usually aware of its irrational nature, but are still unable to use their conscious mind to overcome it. A prime example of how our conscious mind can be overruled by our subconscious.
The good news is that hypnotherapy is very successful in treating phobias because suggestions made during hypnosis bypass the conscious mind and focus on retraining the subconscious, where phobias reside. It's a very powerful tool for countering negative thinking.
There are a wide range of skills and techniques that can be used during hypnotherapy to help remove an individual's fearful thoughts and overcome their phobias; replacing them with positive, controlled actions. Here are just a few examples of the many techniques that can be used during hypnotherapy to resolve a phobia:
- A hypnotherapist can create an anxiety-inhibiting "Anchor" to help a person feel more relaxed when encountering the object of their fear.
- The "Fast Phobia Cure" enables a phobia-sufferer to re-evaluate their fear as non-threatening.
- A psychodynamic approach may be used to uncover the root cause of the phobia.
- During hypnosis, an individual may be regressed back through a series of memories connected with their phobia. Eventually they will reach the trigger which created the fear, which can then be inhibited through a variety of techniques. Age Regression during hypnotherapy can offer the sufferer an opportunity to remember the particular event and review it through 'adult' eyes. This allows them to interpret the event correctly so that it is no longer an issue for them.
- A phobia-sufferer may be exposed to the object of their fear in a gradual way, and in a controlled environment. The hypnotherapist simultaneously teaches them techniques to cope with, and overcome, their fears.
An experienced hypnotherapist will choose the technique(s) that are best suited to an individual, and the way their particular phobia manifests itself.
Hypnotherapy can bring freedom from the distress caused by phobias, bringing a new sense of peace, increased confidence, control and empowerment.