Phobias and Fears
A phobia is a specific fear of a specific thing, activity, substance or place. Approximately 6% of the general population have a phobia.
Phobias can be common, such as fear of flying in a plane, fear of heights, fear of spiders and fear of injections. However, phobias can be extremely unusual, such as scoleciphobia – fear of worms, mottephobia – fear of moths, macrophobia – fear of long waits and ambulophobia – fear of walking.
Many people cope with their phobia by avoiding the thing, activity, substance or place. In this way, the phobia causes no disruption to their lives. People usually seek treatment when they are forced into a situation where they have to confront their phobia i.e. having to fly to another country as part of their job.
Fear is more generalised and can be linked to excessive worry and anxiety. As children grow up, they may have worries and fears that are quite normal and part of developing their own understanding of the world. If, as an adult, you feel constantly fearful, it would be very helpful for you to talk to someone about your fears. This process can help you to take the fears ‘out’ of yourself and have a look at them from a distance and also from another person’s perspective.
Hypnotherapy is a very effective treatment for phobias and fears. Techniques are highly successful in reducing the fear and in many cases, eliminating it all together. There may have been an ‘initial sensitising event’ and hypnotherapy can provide a safe place for you to explore your difficult memories.
Below is a list of the most common phobias. If you want to start to feel differently about the things that you fear, please do get in touch.
This is the term for the excessive fear of being helpless in a situation which might be difficult to escape from. Frequently agoraphobics will avoid busy places and in extreme cases, they will find it very difficult to leave the home. It is quite common for agoraphobia to develop after a person has experienced a panic attack. Because panic attacks are alarming and appear to happen without a recognized trigger, the unpredictability sets up apprehension in a person’s mind and creates anxiety about venturing too far from home.
Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Disorder
A person suffering from a social phobia fears social interaction, particularly with strangers. If they are singled out in a group to answer a question it can seem as if a huge spotlight is pointed at them. Many sufferers find themselves unable to speak because they are experiencing such high levels of fear. They may visibly shake and in extreme cases, actually faint. Frequently, people experiencing this phobia will feel very uncomfortable if they feel that they are being watched. They will assume that they are judged negatively by other people and are extremely worried that they will do something to make themselves look stupid. Just the thought that they will do something embarrassing can prevent them attending social events and if they are able to generate the courage to go, they are likely to feel constantly on edge. People experiencing social phobia will find public speaking impossible.
There are degrees of aerophobia which is a fear of flying. Although aerophobics know that statistically, flying is the safest form of travel, the irrational fear persists and can become overwhelming. The fear can escalate so that people become physically sick or have panic attacks whenever they think about planes or airports.
Aerophobics can fear very different aspects of flying. Some people fear loss of control some people fear the height whereas others fear the plane will crash.
This is the technical term for fear of heights and can cause distress in the people who suffer from it. An acrophobic might confidently reach a certain height but then will find themselves seized with panic and unable to descend. A fear of heights can be explained as an evolutionary protective response and many gound-based mammals demonstrate an in-built caution of heights.
As with agoraphobia, claustrophobia, which describes a fear of being confined in a space, can develop after the experience of a panic attack. Claustrophobics need to know that they can either: get help, in the case of a panic attack or, escape from the confines of where they are. As there can be many occasions when we find ourselves in confined spaces – lifts, planes, trains, coaches, claustrophobia can impose many restrictions to travel on a person’s life. The experience of being in a confined space may trigger a panic attack in a claustrophobic.
Ophidiophobia is an abnormal fear of snakes. Most people would exercise caution around snakes in the wild, but an ophidiophobe would have an adverse reaction to just seeing a picture or a video of a snake. They may sweat or shake or feel violently ill until the image or video is removed. Approximately one third of people have a phobia about snakes and it is assumed that fear of snakes is partly instinctual as a fear of snakes would have helped humans survive. It is fairly easy for ophidiophobes to avoid seeing snakes or being near snakes. This phobia only becomes an issue when the person knows that it will be difficult for them to avoid snakes.
The fear of public speaking is very common. ‘Glosso’ comes from the Greek word for tongue and phobos means fear or dread. Many people will dismiss the thought of applying for a job if it involves giving public presentations. Others will limit the scope of what they can do/offer because the idea of speaking in front of a group of people is too frightening. Most people who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder will have a dread of appearing in the spotlight.
Emetophobia is an acute fear of being sick. This can develop from an unpleasant experience of vomiting as a child. Someone who is an emetophobe can become so worried about being sick that it can affect their eating habits. They are likely to think of everything to prevent an occurrence of sickness and may carry sick bags on their person in case the thing they dread should happen. Slight feelings of nausea are likely to panic an emetophobe and for this reason they are less likely to travel on public transport/boats/planes or even cars.
The fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias. As with most phobias, there are levels of fear. Many people would consider it ‘normal’ to find the idea of spiders
unpleasant. However most people would not break out in a sweat and become paralyzed if they realized that there was a spider in the room.
Mysophobia comes from the Greek work ‘musos’ which means uncleaness and describes an irrational fear of dirt or germs. A person with mysophobia may develop an obsession with washing their hands, or even scrubbing their hands to the point that they become sore. A mysophobic person can fear contamination to the point that they will avoid public places, particularly public toilets where they perceive there will be a high risk of germ contamination. Mysophobic people are likely to develop strange behaviours such as refusing to shake someone’s hand and taking several showers a day.
Hypochondria describes a person who thinks that normal and non-threatening symptoms such as sweating, aching, heart beat variations, indigestion, tension headaches etc. are related to serious conditions, disease or illness. It is also known as health phobia. Even after extensive medical examinations have assured the person that there is nothing wrong, the hypochondriac will continue to believe that they have a condition/disease/illness. They may become preoccupied with researching the condition and detecting new symptoms in their body and they may focus on one particular part of their body – i.e. the liver.