Fears & Phobias

Fears & Phobias

What is the difference between fear and phobia?

Fear of something is an entirely rational response to something that might harm us. Picture the caveman suddenly encountering a sabre-toothed cat – he will be afraid, the animal is a real danger, and his body's natural defence, the 'fight or flight' response will set in: heart rate increases, muscles tense, non-essential systems (such as digestion) will shut down so that he can deal with the danger.

A phobia will cause a similar response because, at some point, it originated from a genuine fear. However, a phobia is an irrational and extreme response, often to something that can cause us no actual harm. There will often be strong avoidance behaviour connected with the phobia and feelings of anxiety, loss of control and panic. The sufferer may well realise that the phobia is irrational, but cannot control it – this is because the phobia works on a subconscious level. The good news is that phobias can be treated with hypnotherapy, and many only require a few sessions to resolve.

A phobia can arise from virtually anything. We are familiar with the most common phobias – spiders, snakes, fear of heights – but a person can develop a phobia around almost anything: buttons, long words, garlic. What may seem trivial to one person may be hugely significant to another and a good therapist will respect your fears by treating them seriously and not belittling them.

At some point in the past there will have been what is termed an Initial Sensitising Event (ISE) for the phobia. An ISE is the event in a person's life that started or caused the problem, being usually a perception that led to an emotional response of some kind. This could be something as straightforward as being suddenly frightened by a dog as a child but, because the fear resulting from the this was not resolved at the time, it develops into a phobia. The fear associated with a phobia is likely to cause physical reactions associated with the fight or flight response.

Phobias often develop in childhood or adolescence and can be separated into two categories: simple phobias which have one stimulus, e.g. spiders, heights; and complex phobias which have several stimuli. A common example of the latter is social phobia, where virtually any interaction with groups of people will trigger the phobia. Such conditions can seriously impact on a person's life and can result in panic attacks.

BWRT ® is exceptionally effective at treating phobias, and often just one session is required to resolve this. In most cases you will not even need to know what caused the phobia or fear in the first place, just how you would prefer to respond in those situations.