What is a phobia and what can be done about it?
A phobia is when you get dead scared about being near something, like spiders or snakes. A phobia is an irrational fear response that is driven by our emotional mind, which is why will-power, facts and reassurance tend to have little impact. Of course, we still try to intellectually understand what is going on and tend to revisit the past to try and remember and logically figure out how it the phobia developed. We then think that the rational understanding will reduce the problem impact but it rarely does. It is quite normal to go through this research.
Example – A person caught a bus to visit someone in hospital and got a nasty shock at what they saw, and then caught the bus back home. In the following few days bus journeys to anywhere became more difficult and then even the thought or sight of a bus became unbearable. It is called a synaesthesia and the bus is the trigger for the unusual phobic response. It may also be motorways or bridges for the same reason. A phobia can happen to anyone and is not a reflection on a persons strength or character, intelligence, will-power, etc and can develop at any age. The good news is that the phobia can normally be ‘eradicated’ in a few hours at most. I have alleviated flying phobia in just 10 minutes at a meeting years ago, although I would normally allow one session. Unfortunately some clients have a personal gain in keeping the phobic response which will have to be addressed prior to success.
So how come the phobia starts in the first place?
We all have a natural autonomic response, the sympathetic nervous system commonly known as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. We are ‘hard wired’ in our system to have the skill without a conscious thought, our bodies prepare to fight the danger, run away from it or stay very still hoping not to be seen. Some thing bad happens and our mind makes a rule of ‘this situation is dangerous … avoid it.’ We become hyper-vigilant but sometimes something else that is linked to the problem gets the ‘blame’ and is used as a trigger.
How long does it take to let go of a phobia?
• Most single issue phobias (such as insects, animals, etc.) can be resolved in a single session.
• More complex phobias such a fear of flying or claustrophobia may require 1 to 3 sessions.
Panic attacks (caused by hyper-vigilance) and often called ‘social phobia’ tend to be symptoms of different and more involved forms of stress and are likely to need a more thorough approach and a longer time than a phobia mentioned in 1 and 2.