Phobias: What, why, where and how?
A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear. Many people are scared of things, or strongly dislike them, but that does not mean they are phobic. For example, a person may hate going in lifts or may be scared of snakes, but these feelings would not necessarily be classed as ‘phobias’.
Extreme or irrational fear
To be classed as a phobia, the fear must be either extreme or irrational. It is quite rational to be scared of dogs if you were once bitten by one as a child. However, if this fear means that you now avoid any place where you might come into contact with a dog (such as parks or even ordinary streets) then that fear has become extreme and could be classed a phobia. People with phobias will do anything to avoid the object of their fear and display extreme anxiety (and sometimes even panic attacks) when faced with the object of their phobia.
A fear which leads you to make such changes in your life that you are unable to function normally, is a phobia. For example, you may be afraid of snakes but this is not likely to stop you leading a normal life. An extreme fear of spiders, however, could lead you to avoid a range of everyday situations such as entering certain rooms in your house, going outside, enjoying a day out with the family etc.
A person may be scared of heights but as long as they avoid Blackpool Tower’s Walk of Faith, they can go about their daily business. A previous MindTraining client was, however so scared of heights that he could not function properly; he couldn’t travel anywhere where there might be a bridge to cross, or even work in a building above the second floor. This is an irrational fear and caused him a lot of problems as you can imagine!
Fears that impact on normal daily life
So, you need to seek help for your phobia if it impacts on your normal daily activities. If you find that you are changing your routines to avoid certain situations, you may need treatment. A phobia of lifts (claustrophobia) might not cause you problems because you can usually take the stairs so you might not need treatment; however, if you become a mum and suddenly have a buggy to push, stairs will no longer be an option and sorting out your lift phobia becomes more urgent.
Treating phobias using cognitive behavioural therapy involves retraining the mind. It is a gentle approach that involves gradual exposure to the feared object, coupled with intense mind training processes. You will not be expected to face all your fears at once with ‘flooding’ – we would never thrust a big, hairy spider at someone with arachnophobia. Nothing is done at MindTraining without your prior consent and full knowledge. You are in charge; you set the pace.
At the first session a plan and progress chart is created in joint collaboration of the trainer with the client. You will have ‘homework’ tasks to do in between sessions and you will see how quickly and easily you can progress up the ladder so that you are facing your fears comfortably.
The aim of MindTraining is to get you to live a normal life. If you are height phobic, you might never want to climb mountains, but we will get you able to live and work without having to plan your route to avoid bridges or tall buildings.
Treatment is highly effective and relatively quick. Medication is not usually required, though clients are always advised to see their GP before starting any treatment programme.
This is very common and we work with a nurse who can use needles when the client is ready. The image below shows our nurse injecting a relaxed client!
Common phobias treated at MindTraining include lifts, heights, spiders and dogs. We have also treated some more unusual phobias such as fear of hospitals. Social phobias are common too – here, people are fearful and tend to avoid, social encounters. We have even treated a four year old boy who developed a phobia of using public toilets due to the hand dryers.
Phobias are extremely common and can afflict people of any age, either gender and are equally represented in people with a good education and profession
We deal with plenty of really unusual phobias too! But we can't tell you what they are due to confidentiality issues - but rest asured, there is little we havent seen!! You might think you have a really bizarre fear but the chances are that you are not alone. Although we can't tell you about the unusual phobias we have treated, we can tell you about some of the bizarre phobias that listeners rang Dr Mann about on a recent radio phone-in; these included rice, bananas, tractors and even Ken Dodd's diddymen....