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Phobias and how they can be treated effectively and quickly using hypnotherapy

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

Phobias are irrational and persistent fears. A person can develop and have a phobia to anything but common phobias include snakes, spiders, blood, needles and bridges. Interestingly while stating that phobias are irrational we can see from the list of phobias here that there is indeed very much a rational basis for many of them. Snakes and spiders, while not a huge threat in the UK certainly do represent a threat in other parts of the world where their bite may well be fatal. It is rational to want to avoid such creatures for our survival. That said, the irrational nature of a phobia means that there is is an irrational expectancy that they will be exposed to their phobia which is very distressing. Luckily phobias can be treated completely, safely and effectively using hypnotherapy without exposure to the trigger itself which is wonderful.

It is fascinating talking to clients in my hypnotherapy sessions where they explain the severity of their response while at the same time acknowledging that it is completely irrational. They are very often bemused by it. They will say things like “I know I shouldn’t feel like this but…” or even more specifically “I know this is completely irrational but…” This, though, is at the very core of the nature of phobia. It is irrational. It does not make sense. The other point is that this does not mean they are not real or to detract on its impact on a person’s life. The impact can be massive. Imagine not being able to fly to a family members' wedding. A specific example of a flying phobia and its impact was on Dennis Bergkamp, the Arsenal and Dutch footballing legend. His phobia of flying meant that he had to be driven to games in Europe that were close enough and never made the games that required a flight. It always surprises me that Bergkamp did not see a hypnotherapist to safely remove his fear. We know that flying is statistically very very safe – far safer than driving on a road. This means nothing to someone who has a phobia though because the phobic response originates very much in a different part of the brain.

Functional imaging studies show us that phobias are associated with greater brain activity in the amygdala. The centre of our primitive brain and where our fight or flight response originate from. When the amygdala is activated it very often will not share, immediately, that information with the more rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex. This is completely by evolutionary design and on many levels makes perfect sense. When confronted by a coiled snake the amygdala reacts instantaneously. You are jumping from the snake before you are aware. The speed of this reaction is clearly a survival instinct. Your brain does not want to have a back and forward messaging about the wonderful aesthetics of the snake while it attacks you, certainly not if you want to stay alive! The higher the activation of the amygdala then the greater the level of distress produced. Of course, the amygdala is sending signals to increase levels of cortisol and adrenaline – all designed to help you survive. The result is an overwhelming and very unpleasant response. One that is distressing and deeply unpleasant.

So what else do we know about phobias. They tend to be object specific and are usually, but not exclusively, focussed on things that are considered generally unpleasant. An example of a phobia that is not thought to be generally unpleasant would be clowns. They are supposed to be funny and entertaining. While most of us find them to be completely innocuous someone with a phobia would be prepared to kick the down door to get away from one. It is fascinating talking to clients in my hypnotherapy sessions where they explain the severity of their response while at the same time acknowledging that it is completely irrational. They are very often bemused by it. A phobia is very often made worse by the fact that sufferers very often fear that they will encounter their phobia very much more than they are likely to in reality. Again, irrational but very real. This means the level of fear is higher and the impact that it has on their lives is higher. This is called “expectancy bias”. They expect it to happen, they believe it is more likely to happen.

So far, so bad. The good news is that specific phobias that I am talking about here can be quickly and safely removed through hypnotherapy. The process that I use takes four sessions. The first one is simply a consultation to discuss the nature of the phobia and how the process will work. The second session is a lovely relaxing hypnosis session that familiarises the client with the nature of trance and hypnosis. Once they have experienced this they understand that hypnosis is about increased focus of attention, being in control and also being deeply relaxed. The third session is where we deal with the phobia itself and this involves specific techniques that essentially move the phobic response from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex. Once this work is done the phobia is gone. A common question is “Will it return?” No, absolutely not. Once it has been dealt with it is gone for good. Sometimes there can be some anxiety about not having what a person has had all their life. It has become a deep rooted part of their identity. Nevertheless, the phobic response has gone for good. The fourth and final session is a way of reordering the brain’s response to the phobia and further reducing its impact. I have worked with clients with a wide range of phobias from flying to needles to blood to mice. It is wonderful to see people liberated from something that has caused them needless distress and impacted their life.

If you are someone who suffers from a a phobia or know someone then do get in touch for me to explain how I can help.

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