Cure for Your Phobia
Let's says, for example, someone is extremely fearful of spiders, and provided there is no objective danger (i.e., the spider couldn't harm them), and their distress is sufficient to disrupt their life, they would be classified as having arachnophobia i.e., a phobia of spiders.
Phobias are common in the general population (around 6%). They are more common in women (8%) than men (3.4%) (Myers et al., 1984). Many specific fears do not cause the person enough disruption in their life to seek treatment for it, for example a person may have a fear of flying but never intends, or has any need, to get on a plane.
Most people, especially children have fears and worries that are part of normal development which do not meet the criteria for it to be classified as a disorder. In-fact, most childhood phobias usually dissipate over time. The child is usually gradually exposed to the source of the fear by their parents and significant others, and manages to overcome their own anxieties
Types of phobias
Phobias are categorised as Specific phobias, Agoraphobia, and Social phobias.
The most common source of social phobias are animals, heights, closed spaces, air travel, and blood and injections. The majority of these phobias occur in women, and they often begin in early childhood (Marks &Gelder, 1967). Ost (1987) found that animal phobias develop earliest, at around 7 years of age; blood phobias develop at around 9 years; dental phobias at around 12 years; and claustrophobia at around 20 years of age
This is a cluster of fears around public places and being unable to escape or find help. This includes fear of shopping, crowds and travelling. Agoraphobia is the most common phobia seen in the clinic and is more commonly diagnosed in women. The majority of sufferers develop their phobia in adolescence and early twenties. The disorder often begins with recurrent panic attacks and other symptoms include: tension, dizziness, minor checking compulsions, rumination, fear of going mad, and depression.
A social phobia is a persistent, irrational fear generally linked to being around other people. The sufferer usually tries to avoid particular situations in which they may become anxious or behave in an embarrassing way. Situations include eating in public, public speaking, using public toilets, etc.
Social phobias are fairly common and occur equally in women as men. Social phobias generally start during adolescence, when social awareness and interaction with others becomes more important.
Therapies for phobias
Many people who suffer from phobias fail to seek treatment. The motivation to seek treatment often develops when there’s a change in the sufferer's circumstances (e.g. promotion which requires the individual to fly more frequently), which prevents them from being able to avoid or minimise their contact with the feared object (e.g. aeroplanes).
Phobias are generally recognised by the sufferer as irrational beliefs which they feel they have no control over. However, there is a general consensus that eliminating irrational beliefs alone, without exposure to the actual feared thing or situation, does not solve the problem (Turner et al., 1992).
A common and widely used technique for phobias is systematic desensitisation (Wolpe, 1958). The sufferer imagines a series of increasingly frightening scenes while in a deep state of relaxation. Systematic desensitisation has been shown to eliminate or reduce phobias (Wilson & O’Leary, 1980). Some behaviour therapists have recognised the importance of exposure to real life stimuli, especially in the long-term effectiveness of treating agoraphobia by graded exposures to real life crowds and public places (Craskeet al., 1992).
People can, and often are, prescribed anxiolytics (sedatives or tranquilisers) for treatment of phobias. However, they are addictive and produce a severe withdrawal syndrome (Schweizeret al., 1990). Antidepressants medications such as imipramine, are sometimes used in treating agoraphobia (Johnson et al., 1988), especially when dysphoria (depressed mood) is suffered as well (Marks, 1983). The problem with treating sufferers with drugs is that the drug may be difficult to discontinue. Sufferers may find themselves dependant on the medication but when the time comes to withdraw from it, the anxiety and fear increase again (Marks, 1981); consequently they become dependent on them for some time
Also, unlike getting on a plane which is typically very well planned and predictable, finding oneself in the presence of a frog or spider is much less so. Therefore taking medication, just in case one appears, would simply not be appropriate or practical!
Psycho Nutritional Medication as safe and effective alternative to Drugs
Unlike psychotropic drugs medication, psycho nutritional medication such as GABA, Tryptophan, SAMe are natural, safe and effective treatment for phobias; they have the same function as psychotropic drugs to balance back imbalanced neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) which caused the phobia but doing so in natural ways without causing any side effects to the patient. These nutritional supplements often act as building blocks precursors to deficient neurotransmitters, eg Tryptophan is a precursor of Serotonin and the latter is often assumed to be deficient in phobia sufferers. You can do a neurotransmitters test to check out whether your neurotransmitters are actually imbalanced.
Why is hypnotherapy such an effective treatment for phobias?
During hypnotherapy, suggestions are offered to the sufferer's unconscious mind while they are in a suggestible altered state of consciousness. The unconscious mind is hidden beyond our everyday awareness. In addition to its more positive aspects, it is where impulses, habits, negative emotions, memories, and irrational thoughts reside
During this altered state of consciousness, clients can be easily guided to relearn new behaviours, e.g., becoming more assertive, confident and calm in managing the phobic situation or object well.
In most forms of psychotherapy, the therapist makes suggestions at a conscious level. The conscious mind, whilst rational, can also be defensive, overly critical, overcome with negative thinking, and not always in the mood for change. When in a trance, the clients' conscious mind relaxes, allowing the therapist to communicate with a more receptive unconscious mind.
During this deep state of relaxation, the hypnotherapist will also use systematic desensitisation, as described above, where the trigger of the fear is gradually introduced to the sufferer whilst they are in a trance. Client's typically are quickly able to do this exercise without experiencing fear during trance, and will then be encouraged to try out these new ways of working either inside, or outside of the therapy room, in the presence of the real thing when they are out of trance.
With some clients who have extreme fear reactions to even the mildest thoughts the feared object or situation, and where it is too anxiety-provoking for them to imagine themselves performing differently in the face of a phobic situation, they may choose to observe someone else instead. This can be a very effective way for sufferers to desensitise themselves to the feared object, and by imagining someone else performing a behaviour they will feel much more confident.
Hypnotherapists might also use a technique called age regression which helps to to find the source of the problem i.e., when the problem first started. By exploring these earlier memories, the hypnotherapist will help the client to store them in a much more useful way. These memories then fail to continue to have the same negative effect on the person in the current time.
Another technique hypnotherapists can use which often brings fast results and lasting change is called the 'Fast Phobia' or 'Rewind' technique. The suffer will be guided through a process where the feared event is played forward and backwards until they can be confidently presented with the previously feared object or situation without experiencing the fear reaction associated with it.