Defining Fear or Phobia
Fears are a natural part of life. It is a natural response to stimuli in our environment designed to protect us from dangers within our lives. In contrast, a phobia is an irrational fear caused by a negative feedback loop. Often these fears are of things that are unlikely to happen, or may not happen at all. People with phobias experience unwanted responses to animals, objects, insects, actions or places. Fears and phobias go hand in hand, but both can be overcome.
This physical response to stress is okay. Avoidance of the stressors is what tends to cause the problem. When we avoid a stimuli that makes us uncomfortable we work harder to avoid it the next time, until we have an irrational fear. Worse, people with phobias often know their response is irrational, making it harder to accept or understand.
Fear and phobias are far more common than most people realize. Some estimates say that more that 11% of the population has some form of irrational fear. Not realizing this many people manage their fear or phobia on a day to day basis. Only seeking help when they find it severely interfering with their needs and desires. Or, in the case of parents, fearing that they will unconsciously pass on their phobias or fears to their children, who learn from their behaviors.
How do people get phobias?
Phobias are learned behaviors related to our fears. Sometimes these fears are learned from a parent, friend, or relative. These fears are a natural part of the body’s defense system. In fact, phobias are often exaggerated fears of evolutionary memories. Imprints on our brain that help protect us through creating caution or awareness of the danger or potential harm.
For example, we know on a primal level that certain creatures can harm us. Even kill us. While we may know that a poisonous spider can kill you, we definitely know that a basic house spider won’t kill you. Unfortunately, people with phobias are unable to make this differentiation.
Childhood or Truama
Many fears are learned as small children. We watch our parents react to the world and learn from their relation to it (both consciously and unconsciously). If you see a parent in abject terror of something, your instinctive response may be to fear that threat as well. Whether it is a real threat or not.
If we do not learn them from our childhood, we earn them through traumatic events in our lives. Someone who nearly drowns in the ocean as an adult may come to avoid water. Through that avoidance, they may avoid more and more situations involving water. Continuing forward until what was once a simple fear from one situation, becomes a phobia.
Each time you avoid it, you reinforce that link between the fear and the stimuli. Making it worse and harder to overcome the fear the next time.
How do you treat phobias?
If you ask any mental health professional they will suggest that, starting from an safe perspective, you gradually build exposure to the stimuli. We call this desensitization. While this is effective and can be done hypnotically, it is not the most effective method of treatment.
In many cases it is easier to simply eliminate or diminish the connection with hypnosis. The unconscious is able to process information far more quickly than the conscious mind. By using hypnosis you can bypass the conscious and effect real change more rapidly.
One study mentioned in American Health Magazine compared Psychoanalysis, Behavior Therapy, and Hypnotherapy as treatment options. While the study focused primarily on smoking, anxiety, and weight loss, it shows a significant difference in efficiency of treatment. The study showed that comparatively hypnosis could treat many things in far fewer sessions than other common therapies.
The study showed the following results:
- Psychoanalysis: 38% recovery after 600 sessions
- Behavior Therapy: 72% recovery after 22 sessions
- Hypnotherapy: 93% recovery after 6 sessions
Phobias can be resolved in one session. There is, of course, no guarantee. This level of change depends on the individual and their willingness to let go and move on. Each hypnotist may use a slightly different approach to treating phobias based on the information provided. A hypnotist may use a differnt technique depending on what they know about how the phobia first started, how you view it, and how receptive your are to change.
The basic symptoms of a phobia are generally the same:
- Uncontrollable anxiety when exposed to the fear.
- Avoiding the fear at all costs.
- Not being able to function when exposed to the fear.
- Knowledge that the fear is irrational or unreasonable.
- And inability to control the feelings related to the fear.
- Even thinking of the source of your fear causes anxiety.
- abnormal breathing
- accelerated heartbeat
- hot flushes or chills
- a choking sensation
- chest pains or tightness
- butterflies in the stomach
- pins and needles
- dry mouth
- confusion and disorientation
In contrast, another type of phobia is the complex phobia. A complex phobia occurs when additional fears or phobias become attached to the initial phobia. A complex phobia is not only more difficult to treat but harder to identify and manage. In cases of complex fears and phobias, there may be any number of connected fears or phobias that have become attached to the primary phobia.
For example, those experiencing agoraphobia may also fear of being left along (monophobia). Or they could suffer from claustrophobia in addition to their primary phobia. This is the case in many instances of agoraphobia. In fact, many people who suffer from this will rarely leave their homes due to their fear.
How Hypnosis Can Help
Fears and its negative counterpart, phobias, work on a unconscious level. Meaning that it is not something we can control. No matter how much we tell ourselves that X, Y, or Z isn’t scary, our bodies and minds will still react with fear. Hypnosis aims to communicate with the unconscious and change the way you feel and react to your phobia.
If you are unsure how your phobia arose, your hypnotist will often be able to help your find the precipitating event. Whether you are doing exploratory excavation for a cause or popping that bubble, you will always be in complete control. This is your journey. Your hypnotist is just your guide. Your hypnotist will use a variety of techniques depending on the information provided, to help change your responses to the fear connected to the phobia.
The number of sessions required will differ from person to person. It also depends on the severity of the phobia. Some people find that they are far better able to cope after just one session. Others may require ongoing reinforcement and interventions. Your hypnotist will likely recommend self-hypnosis and relaxation techniques designed to help you continue the work you’ve done and manage your anxiety long term.