What is a phobia?
The word ‘phobia’ is from the Greek word ‘Phobos’ which means ‘fear’ or ‘morbid fear’. Medically phobias have five categories:
- Phobias of animals (dogs, snakes, rats, birds etc)
- Phobias of the natural environment (earthquakes, heights, the dark etc)
- Phobias of blood/injection/injury (blood, injury, needles etc)
- Phobias that are situational (lifts, flying, bridges, enclosed spaces etc)
- Phobias otherwise not listed above (swallowing, blushing, vomiting etc)
A phobia is basically a fear response that interferes with our here-and-now daily living, where our body goes into a stressed and anxious state; whilst in reality there is no real danger. A common example would be somebody who is unable to be in the same room as a spider, and react in an extremely fearful and anxious way if a spider is nearby or touching them.
We can create a phobia at any time in our lives, although they are mainly created in childhood. The use of the word ‘create’ is particularly relevant here, as nobody hands us a phobia to experience, nor are we born with a phobia. In experiencing a traumatic event, or a series of emotionally charged events, we can create new neural pathways that link up non-dangerous triggers to a perceived life-threatening event. It may be useful to know that there is a small part of the brain called the amygdala, that is responsible for triggering off our fear response, and although the amygdala can be unreliable and overactive, we are able to use other parts of our brain in order to regulate our fear responses.
Here you can find a complete list of phobia’s (you may be surprised at how many there are).
How do I know I have a phobia?
Many people have phobias without being aware of them, this may sound rather strange, however often we avoid the trigger in order not to experience our fearful response. Potentially we can do this throughout our lifetime, or until we encounter the trigger, or perhaps others point out our avoidance. Some because highly anxious just thinking of the phobia trigger, whilst avoiding the phobic trigger at all costs (which can result in severe lifestyle changes), and although this response may seem irrational, experiencing anxiety can be preferable to the phobic response itself, and therefore quite logical on one level.
Many people who do have a phobic experience will describe themselves as being:
- extremely anxious
- on the verge of passing out
- close to dying
- full of dread
- unable to move
- wanting to run away
Physical symptoms may include:
- increased breathing rate
- heart palpitations
- damp palms
- trembling or shaking
- difficulty in thinking clearly or effectively
You may also be fully aware that your response is irrational or inappropriate, yet still experience the psychological and physical symptoms. This is typical of a phobic response, and it may be useful to not add ‘I’m going crazy’ to your set of experiences. Neural pathways within the brain are triggered instantly, sending chemicals and messages to your body, so by the time you are consciously aware of this, you are already dealing with the after effects of the stress response within your body.
There is good news though, phobias are actually very easy to treat. Neural pathways are created in seven minutes, and can be destroyed in seven minutes. We can also learn how to override the phobic response by using other parts of our brain.
How are phobias treated?
There are many ways to treat phobias, such as exposure treatment, hypnosis / relaxation techniques, challenging thought processes, tapping on pressure points around the body (EFT), and various Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques etc. With such a good choice of solutions for your phobia, you could safely say that the hardest part is often seeking help in the first place.
Sometimes phobias and panic attacks are a manifestation of serious and deep trauma, or they can be layered on top of other phobias, in these cases you may need more than one session (for the latter), or a longer-term therapeutic relationship with a psychotherapist.
How do you treat phobia’s at Ongoing Support?
In most cases, we treat phobias within one session. Yes, one session. We primarily use NLP techniques followed by a guided relaxation to treat your phobia, however we only start this process after we have gathered some historical and social information from you. We use this ‘getting to know you’ to help us assess if your phobia is connected to pre-existing anxiety, or any other issue that may indicate underlying past trauma. In these cases we will discuss possible further options with you, and we will not charge you for the session.
Phobia therapy is actually not as frightening as it sounds either, the techniques we use do not involve exposure therapy where you may be asked to confront your fear, instead we work with dissolving neural pathways using a visualisation without triggering any phobic response whatsoever. In fact, the hardest part is often telling us about your phobia before we start any exercises / techniques.
Our phobia therapy costs £70 per session. Unlike our other services, we do not offer a free consultation or consessionary rates with our phobia therapy, as most people only need one session, including the initial assessment.
It is easy to book an appointment using the details below. When booking, please let us know that you wish to book for a phobia therapy session, rather than an initial consultation for our psychotherapy services..
We have a blog post ‘are you phobic’ on our Psychobabble Blog (text partly taken from this page).