Fears and Phobias
Fear is a natural human emotion, there to protect us. It activates our flight or flight reflex, preparing us for imminent or perceived danger.
Some fears are instilled in us by our parents to safeguard us and some we acquire through our own experiences.
However, some irrational fears can also be instilled in us, usually in childhood. Imagine if, seeing a wasp fly near her child a mother panicked hysterically, flapping her arms and shouting, it is logical that the child will assume and learn that there is some awful danger attached to wasps and will pick up the mother’s fear.
The only fears that we are all born with are the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling.
Fear is an essential survival instinct, and therefore phobias can be seen as a maladaptive expression of this response.
Phobias are learned behaviours, or associated with a past traumatic experience, previous incident or severe stress.
No one is born with a phobia, yet phobias are an extremely common type of anxiety disorder.
Phobias are more pronounced than fears. A phobia is a debilitating and overwhelming, irrational or abnormal fear of a place, situation, feeling, animal or object, where the fear:
- cannot be reasonably explained
- Is out of proportion to the danger
- is beyond their voluntary control
- leads to a compelling desire to avoid the feared situation
- has a significant impact on their day-to-day life
- it lasts for more than six months
Phobias develop when a person has an unrealistic or a magnified sense of danger about a situation or object.
People with phobias usually recognise that their fear is irrational, yet are still unable to control their feelings and when exposed to the object or situation, their terror is profound, automatic and real.
Types of Phobias – Phobias are divided into two main groups:
Specific (or Simple) Phobias – are an irrational fear of a specific situation or object. There are hundreds of specific phobias, here are some of the most common –
- Confined spaces
- Needles or other sharp objects
Complex Phobias – Agoraphobia and Social Phobia – can greatly interfere with your day-to-day life, as the triggers are more difficult to avoid than Specific Phobias.
- Agoraphobia – A fear of open spaces or being in places or situation where you feel you can’t escape. You may fear leaving home, travelling on public transport, or being in a crowd.
- Social Phobia – A fear of social occasions and situations where you feel watched or judged. You may dread normal everyday activities such as meeting people, starting a conversation, group conversations, working, shopping or being in restaurants or bars, for fear that you’ll embarrass yourself or people will criticise you.
Many people choose to cope with the phobia by going to extreme lengths to completely avoid the situation. However, if you have a phobia, continually trying to avoid what you’re afraid of will make the situation worse. Hypnotherapy can help you to face your fears and phobias.