Reduce Stress by Facing Phobias
When you know what you fear, you are one step closer to overcoming its effect – but its harder when you harbour a genuine phobia.
Phobias seriously affect about one in 10 people, but many more of us claim that we have them. Phobias are intense, irrational fears that fall into three categories: specific phobias, where the fear is linked to a particular object or animal, such as dogs; social phobia, where the sufferer has a fear of being humiliated or embarrassed in front of other people; and agoraphobia, a fear of being alone in a situation from which they can’t escape – this includes fear of crowds.
Symptoms of Irrational Fear
People who suffer from phobias report panic symptoms including feelings of terror, light-headedness, a pounding heart, shortness of breath and an overwhelming desire to run away.
Most people with phobias recognise that the terror they experience is out of proportion to the actual danger posed (that their fear is, in fact, irrational), yet they may find that the fear is so deep rooted that it dramatically affects their ability to conduct a normal life.
The Most Common Phobias
There are hundreds of phobias, but the most common ones are:
- Heights (acrophobia)
- Spiders (arachnophobia)
- Darkness (nyctophobia)
- Snakes (opitophobia)
- Flying (aerophobia)
- Dentist (dentophobia)
- Public speaking (glossophobia)
- Injections (trypanophobia)
- Blood (haemophobia)
Based In Reality?
Phobias frequently relate to objects or situations that can pose a genuine danger, for example snakes or deep water. Often, phobias can be traced back to childhood. You may have been influenced by someone else’s fear, for example, you may have ‘learned’ your mother’s fear of dogs.
Sometimes a phobia may be traced back to a single frightening incident, such as being bitten by a dog. When a phobia becomes so overwhelming as to make you change your behaviour, it’s time to face your fears.
Overcoming your Fear
Use this step-by-step guide as often as necessary to begin conquering your fears. Small efforts will lead to big changes when you start taking action against your phobia.
- Assess your phobia
Think about what makes you feel panicky and scared. Once you have determined exactly which situations cause you to feel fear you can start to take steps to overcome your phobia.
- Face your fear
Some phobias, such as a phobia of snakes, don’t affect your daily life, but if someone has to avoid dogs, cats, lifts or crowds it can be more difficult. Avoiding fear often reinforces it and makes future encounters worse. Start to desensitise yourself to the fear before you face the real thing. For example, if you have a phobia of spiders, start by looking at pictures of them for a few seconds, and graduate to the real thing when you’re ready.
- Control your breathing
The simplest way of staying calm is to control your breathing. Breathe in slowly and deeply to the count of eight, and then breathe out slowly to the count of six. Measure your breathing so that your mind is concentrating on your inhalations and exhalations rather than your fear.
- State affirmations
Create affirmations to match your phobia. Repeat reassuring statements such as, ‘this dog isn’t going to hurt me’. A rational approach to your fear will help you to overcome the feelings of panic.
- Boost self esteem
When phobias aren’t serious enough to warrant medical treatment there are ways that you can help yourself. Boost your self-esteem and general confidence by enrolling in courses such as public speaking or simulated flying to clear the fear.
Seeking Professional Help
- Neuro-linguistic programming
NLP aims to change the thought pattern that holds the phobia in place, helping you to gain control over your mind.
In an hypnotic state you can hear and respond but aren’t fully conscious. The origins of the fear are identified and negative thoughts are changed into positive ones by suggestion.
- Thought field technique
Based on the theory that fears are held within the body, TFT uses a pre-determined series of gentle finger taps on acupuncture points to remove anxiety.