Most of us will have experienced being afraid in a certain situation, and then will have changed what we might have done so as to make us feel safer. You may for instance have avoided walking at night through a shady area with a high crime rate or chosen not to stand too close to the edge of a precipice. Fear is an important survival mechanism and a very natural response to a potentially dangerous situation.
Healthy fear only turns into a phobia when the perceived danger is either unrealistic or exaggerated. This fear can be triggered by certain charged everyday situations (such as using lifts) or by certain charged things (such as buttons or common harmless spiders). Encountering a situation or object charge in this way is likely to set off a fight-or-flight reaction. When this happens, stress hormones will be pumped into your system, causing your heart to pound in your chest and your breathing to quicken. In severe cases, it may even result in a full-blown panic attack.
Indeed, the immediate physical and emotional effects can be surprisingly unpleasant. However, the fear will then also become persistent, creating additional unpleasant longer-term affects. A person will go on to develop an overwhelming need to avoid the particular situation or object that previously set off the strong fear response. This automatic mechanism can serve to limit your world and go on to impact the very quality of your life.
This acute response will then also cause longer-term anxiety that will make you change the way you live and organise your activities.
Some people are born with a predisposition to anxiety, which means that there is some genetic basis for fear. However, phobias are usually a learned response, often picked up from a close member of your family. Having a sibling or parent that is severely worried or anxious may well affect the way you end up coping with fear and anxiety later on in life.
Phobias can also be linked to a particular traumatic incident that you may have encountered. Coming close to drowning could, for example, make you afraid of swimming; or being involved in a motor accident can cause you to become scared to drive.
Being either specific or complex in nature, phobias tend to fall into one of these two broad categories.
Specific (or simple) phobias usually involve just one particular thing. This thing may be:
Complex phobias will include:
Hypnotherapy, and its related disciplines, can be effective in helping. The work we will do together will enable you to find more appropriate ways of seeing the situations you face, as well as more appropriate ways of responding to them. Because phobias are largely created in your mind, you will find that you really do have the ability to make the changes necessary to enable you to relax in previously stressful situations.
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Read about your fight-or-flight response in this page on emotions.
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The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt