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  • Daniel Pedley

Figuring Out Phobias

How the rational is often irrational, and how you can help to ease your phobias now.

Phobias are far more complex than just feeling creeped out.



Phobias - What are they?

When we think of phobias, we often associate them with fear, terror, needing a change of underwear or the classic cartoon depiction of somebody jumping out of their own skin. But what most fail to understand is that phobias are more than just fear. In order for a fear to be classed as a phobia, they need to be extreme, debilitating to daily life and are almost always entirely irrational. To lend to this, many of you reading this will have often heard of phobias that seem 'bizarre' or 'strange' simply because of how irrational they are. Take for example my personal favourite just because of it's name - Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia which is the fear of long words, and is named ironically as such because there is no rational way in which long words can be harmful. Yet, there are still those who are afraid of them and this really can be used to illustrate my point, that the irrationality of phobias is often the key to helping to treat them. They can really affect anyone, and it is estimated that almost 10 million people in the UK have a phobia of one thing or another (NHS Inform: Phobias, 2023). From Arachnophobia (the phobia of spiders) to Agoraphobia (the phobia of open or crowded places), there are a plethora and many more are still being discovered and named.



So then, how do we treat them?

Now this is entirely dependent on who you are, and your disposition. But ultimately, the way to treat phobias is to experience that which causes them and to challenge their irrationality. Take for example Arachnophobia, where spiders are the entity responsible for the phobic reaction. Now, I am by no means a fan of spiders, but I am not an arachnophobe in that I do not experience the traditional physical phobic symptoms of chest pains, dizziness, difficulty breathing, sweating and changes in temperature as well as the psychological symptoms of anxiety, panic, and a sensation of dread and wanting to remove oneself from the spider. If though, I were to sit in the same room as someone who is an arachnophobe, I will ask them why then the spider is more likely to cause harm to them or become aggressive towards them, than it is to myself. The answer of course is simple, in that it wouldn't. By putting a spider in the same room as myself and that person, the spider is equally likely to walk towards either of us, but more than likely it will be scared of both of us and either ignore us, and run away. Hence, the phobia is entirely unfounded regardless of what caused it in the first place. Often then, to break the cycle of the phobic response, the individual often has to be exposed to what causes it in one manner or another. There are two more common ways to do this:


To illustrate helping to treat phobias, we will look at the phobia of cheese.



Flooding

Flooding pretty much does what it says on the tin. For those who are of a less nervous disposition, and are ready to tackle their phobia head on, it involves somebody facing that phobia in it's most severe form. If for example you had Turophobia (the irrational phobia of cheese), the flooding strategy would involve you picking up, and eating some cheese. Of course, this is less advisable if you are lactose intolerant, but the idea is that you are able to expose as many of your senses as possible to the thing that you have a phobia of, and whilst at first this may be terrifying, with exposure you will begin to realise that the cheese is harmless and will not hurt you, you will notice your heart rate begin to slow to normal baseline levels and as you realise that you cannot be harmed, the phobia is no longer present. Excellent then, if you are asked to a cheese and wine night, or alternatively afterwards just decide you're peckish for some Gouda.



Systematic Desensitisation

To continue with looking at treating a cheese phobia, if you however cannot face your phobia head on, there are ways to introduce the cheese slowly. This strategy is called systematic desensitisation and relies on gradually introducing progressively more challenging levels of exposure until you would realise that cheese is entirely harmless, and you stop producing a phobic response when you are near to it. For example, you may first begin to going to a supermarket and walking through the dairy isle where they stock cheeses. Once you feel more comfortable doing this, you may go to the fresh dairy counter where you can smell the cheese from a distance. Next, you may up the ante by buying some cheese, and keeping it in the fridge or getting someone else to cut it at a distance, following by doing it yourself until finally you build yourself up to cutting it, picking it up and eating it. Unfortunately, this can be a longer and more complex progress, but should yield the same results and much the same as flooding, if you are willing to make the effort to tackle your phobia, you can make progress even if it takes repeated attempts.



One of the best ways to tackle phobias is to ask for help from others.



Getting help with phobias

The aforementioned methods are the two I most employ with clients, and they can entirely be done on your own without any help. However, should you need help with working on helping to kick your phobias to the curb, you can always ask for somebody else to lend a hand. Should this be friends, family or a therapist, asking for the help of somebody else can be useful as they may have some suggestions that you may not have thought of yourself, such as trying cheese with some lovely chutney before you try it on it's own, or on chips or a burger. Working with a therapist like myself, you will be able to help establish a plan to be able to tackle your phobias not only your way, but in an entirely systematic and routinely manner which enhance your chances of success. Therapeutic techniques such as hypnotherapy can add another layer to the process, since through hypnosis you will be able to use your hypnotic mindset to expose yourself to the stimuli that you may not even have access to, enhancing your toolkit to take on your phobia head on, and do all you can to help try and kick it for good.



How I can help

By working with me as your hypnotherapist, I will be able to sit down with you and get to know your phobia, how you want me to help you to tackle it and to build a treatment plan that's as bespoke as possible to enhance your chances of success to the best of my ability. By working with us at Piper Therapy Services, we will be able to help you in trying to tackle your phobia, regardless of what it is in a manner which makes you feel safe, comfortable and even at times will be fun. Our tasking between sessions, as well as the bespoke treatment plans can help to steer you in the right direction if you don't know where to start, as well as to teach you valuable skills such as self-hypnosis that you can continue to use after our sessions have concluded to help you to tackle almost anything that comes your way. What are you waiting for? Get in contact with myself and the team at Piper Therapy Services today, to arrange a free phone call and see what we can do in order to help you.



References

Phobias. (January 18th, 2023). Retrieved February 26, 2023, from https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mental-health/phobias#:~:text=Phobias%20are%20the%20most%20common,ages%20of%20four%20and%20eight.


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