What Is a Phobia?
Many of us experience moments of fear in our lives – even moments of total terror – but for some, it’s a little more than just a passing moment of fear. A phobia can become a debilitating and overwhelming state of panic which presents as a near-constant presence in day-to-day existence. The fact that the fears are often irrational, or that the cause or root cannot t be explained or understood by the conscious mind, makes the fear even more powerful – often leaving the sufferer at the mercy of sudden and unexpected bouts of fear and sheer terror.
What is the Difference Between a Fear and a Phobia?
We have all felt fear at some time in our lives and something which we all experience quite naturally from time to time. Fear is a healthy response to a frightening situation. – it is a coping mechanism to activate certain chemicals (such as adrenaline) so that all our energy can be focused on saving ourselves from any given situation perceived as dangerous by our mind. For example, it is completely normal to be filled with fear when coming across a dangerous animal face to face – such as a lion / snake / crocodile …
However, when the fear takes the form of unexplained feelings of terror, sometimes triggered by certain situations, sometimes coming out of nowhere for no good reason (triggers can be ‘hidden’ or unnoticed) and when that state of terror begins to affect daily life (such as arranging life to avoid the ‘trigger’) or a feeling of constant fear / feeling unsafe, this needs to be addressed.
A fear is a passing thing which does not affect your life much and is quickly forgotten. A phobia affects life at a much deeper level, and has a decided impact on how life is handled. Phobia can provoke feelings of being insecure and frightened of life and situations, feeling powerless and out of control, or unable to cope with day to day activities without a constant nagging fear.
Phobias can take many forms – specific things or situations, such as spiders, dentists, flying, or being trapped in small spaces … but can also be totally irrational fears of things such as bridges / stepping on a crack in the pavement / storms or thunder … In fact anything fear which is either irrational (can’t be explained) or starts to build into more than just a fear – where it starts to affect the quality of life – needs to be looked at and resolved.
How Does a Phobia Form?
Research has shown that phobia and fear can develop either through a bad experience with the object of the phobia, or simply from a perceived danger that the sufferer associates with that object. In many cases, the person with the phobia is aware that the extent of their fear they feel is illogical, but they still feel completely powerless to overcome it.
When confronted with the object of their fear, phobia sufferers experience a sensation of anxiety, which can range in severity from feelings of intense discomfort to full-blown panic attacks. In an attempt to cope with the situation, sufferers will usually get the urge to make a physical escape from the situation. If this is not possible, they might instead cover their eyes or ears to shield themselves from the situation as much as possible.
Ironically, these attempted coping mechanisms often do more harm than good. By avoiding that which scares them, these sufferers end up cognitively reinforcing their own belief that the feared object or situation is dangerous. In addition, the human imagination often exaggerates the unseen. By averting our gaze from something unpleasant, our brain assumes it is worse than it really is and takes this as confirmation that it should be avoided at all costs – even if there is clear evidence to the contrary.
In order to further clarify how a phobia is formed, it is necessary to briefly describe how the brain works. The brain has two main components, the conscious mind and the subconscious (or unconscious) mind. Under normal circumstances these work together very well.
The subconscious mind is a huge data-storage ‘filing cabinet’ – it can be compared to the way data is stored on a computer. It has no opinions, cannot make decisions nor can it rationalize or ‘understand’ anything. It is merely a data-base of collected information.
The conscious mind is the part that thinks things through and makes decisions, based on the data it receives from the subconscious mind.
The wonderful way they work together can be explained in an example: a small child sees a hot-plate and reaches out to touch it – she burns her fingers. The next time the little one sees a hot-plate, her conscious mind refers to the subconscious mind about the any information about hot-plates – and of course the subconscious mind supplies the information that hot-plates burn. Immediately the little one pulls back her hand so as not to burn again.
The problem comes when the information in the subconscious has been distorted / incorrectly recorded / or a when a traumatizing incident occurs. For example, a small child – perhaps 2 years old, is walking across a wood and stone bridge with mom. The child momentarily looses his / her footing on the stones, slips – and the little foot goes into the water. Mom, being overprotective, might over-react, gather the child up, and say something like – “You could have fallen into the river and drowned!”
The child, at 2 years of age, has no alternate reference point from which to judge the comment from mom. All information at that age is learned mostly from mom and dad. So the child completely believes and accepts that he / she could have fallen into the river and drowned. Based on this information, the child might come to a further conclusion: Wood and Stone Bridges Are Dangerous.
As the child grows up, he / she no longer has conscious memory of the incident, and mom has long forgotten the comment, as there never truly was any real danger of the child drowning. However, the subconscious mind has stored the incident in vivid and graphic detail as a ‘life-threatening’ event – the feeling of falling, foot in the water, mom grabbing the little arm, the fear in mom’s voice, and of course mom’s actual words “You could have fallen into the river and drowned”.
As the child grows up, every time he / she comes across a wood and stone bridge, an unexplained fear is triggered. The fact that the fear cannot be explained makes it even more powerful and frightening. Fear builds upon fear builds upon unexplained fear builds upon more fear every time the child sees a wood and stone bridge.
By the time she reaches adulthood, she could easily have a full-blown phobia which now includes all wooden bridges, which then might then even expand to all bridges – severely affecting the ability to think and act rationally whenever presented with this situation. The fear could even extend to such a degree that the person might even be afraid to leave the safety of their home.
Of course this is an extreme example – but one can get the picture. There are many levels of phobia and fear, and it does not need to be bad or debilitating in order to get help. Even mild discomfort / anxiety / fear can easily be shifted.
Can Phobia Be ‘Cured’?
The answer is a resounding yes! Hypnosis is extremely effective in helping to identify the underlying source of the phobia and to reprogram the way the brain interprets and reacts to it. Often the keys to phobia / fears are stored deep in the subconscious mind, which is not easily accessible during other types of therapy. The result is that some therapies have little or no effect on phobia / panic / fear. Hypnosis works with the subconscious mind, where all the data / information is stored, and we can help to re-frame / resolve / release fears / find the root cause.
Sharon works on a lot of levels to bring about change for her clients – direct suggestions, investigating the root cause and de-activating that, changing how situations are experiences and perceived visualization and mental exercises to enable the client to move past these fear feelings, and techniques to feel safe and secure – even in situations which previously triggered panic / fear.
Additionally, relaxation techniques are taught so that the phobia sufferer can take control of any anxious feelings associated with the situation or object they fear.
How Successful is Hypnosis for Phobia and Fear?
Sharon has helped many phobia sufferers overcome their fears and regain control over their lives. She has been so successful in this area that she has garnered media attention, including being featured on a national television program as a mentor for an agoraphobia sufferer. In three days, she was able to help the patient overcome her fear.
How Many Appointments Do You Need?
Hypnotherapy works very quickly – You can expect wonderful and lasting change within 4 – 6 appointments.
How Much Does Hypnotherapy Cost?
- The first appointment is R800 (2 hours)
- Follow-up appointments are R700 (1 hour each)
Sharon will help you to gently let go phobia and fear, to feeling more in control, more calm, and at peace with life.