Mind Healing – Overcoming Your Phobia
Listen as Dr David explains how and why phobias arise. Audio lasts 15 minutes.
Many millions of perfectly healthy men, women and children are made extremely frightened by things others find no reason to fear. This type of acute anxiety is called a phobia from Phobos, the Greek god of fear. In ancient time their warriors would engrave his image on their shields to terrify to enemy.
Because the fears seem so irrational and unreasonable, it is often difficult for non-phobics either to understand or to sympathise.
As a result, phobias are frequently hidden fears, carefully concealed by those who suffer from them, from friends, neighbours or colleagues at work and sometimes even from members of their own family.
Ashamed of what they regard as foolish feelings, getting ridiculed, and sometimes embarrassed by what they are convinced is a form of serious mental illness, many suffer in secret and in silence.
The good news is that, no matter how distressing and disabling your phobia may be right now, there are effective ways of overcoming it and much you can do to help yourself…
- You can win freedom from your fears.
- You can learn to control the distressing mental and physical symptoms of acute anxiety.
- You can teach yourself to cope with, and in most cases to prevent, panic attacks.
And you can do this …
- No matter what type of phobia you may be suffering from.
- No matter how old you are.
- Even if you have made unsuccessful attempts to overcome your fears in the past.
- Whether you have suffered from a phobia for a few months or for many years.
On this site I will show you how to wage war on your phobia and emerge victorious. Many thousands have already done so. Now, using the same practical procedures, you too can fight your phobia and win.
Do You Have A Phobia?
To discover whether or not you may have a phobia, just complete the questionnaire below. For each item, note the number that describes how anxious it makes you feel using the scale:
(0) Not at all (1) Somewhat (2) Fair amount (3) Greatly (4) Very Greatly
- Crowded places
- Public speaking
- Being teased
- Human corpses
- Dead animals
- Being watched at work
- Flying insects
- Crawling insects
- Loud voices
- People in authority
- Feeling angry
- Travelling by train
- Eating in public
- Public lavatories
- Deep water
- Ugly people
- Harmless snakes
- Sick people
- Medical doctors
- Making mistakes
- Medical odours
- Missing a heart beat
- Being criticised
- Travelling in a lift
- Strange shapes
- Travelling by car
- Busy streets
- Overcast skies
- Parting from family or close friends
- Sexual intercourse
- Imaginary creatures
- Public transport
- Bed springs
- Door handles
- Having your hair cut
- Human hair
- Sudden noises
If you scored 2 or more on any of the above, you are probably mildly phobic about that item on the list. The higher your score the greater your fears and the stronger your phobia. The greater the number of items scoring 2 or above, the greater the disruption to your life is liable to be.
How Can We Become Phobic About so Many Things?
What may have struck you when reading down that lengthy list, is how anyone could develop an intense fear about some of them. While it may seem reasonable, for example, to fear snakes, rats, flying or thunder storms how could anyone become fearful in the presence of door handles, bedsprings, feathers, nudity or sex?
How Phobias Come About.
The simple answer is through learning.
Just as we learned to walk and to speak our native language – or several languages – fluently, as infants, we can also learn to be afraid of objects, situations and people that offer us no objective threat.
What seems to happen, in the case of a phobia, is that we experience a fright in a particular situation.
This may be caused by the situation itself or by changes within our own body. Research suggests, for example, that women may be at greater risk of developing agoraphobia around the time of their menstrual period.
Some aspect of the situation is perceived as causing our anxiety. From then on we seek to avoid contact with it.
Such avoidance is rewarding since it prevents us suffering the distress caused by anxiety, or at worst, panic. Because we tend to act in ways which increases reward while decreasing likely distress, we are more likely to avoid that object or situation in future. After a while the lessons become so deeply entrenched that it becomes quite hard, though not impossible, to face up to the perceived ‘threat’ again.
Overcoming Your Phobia.
Helping Dr Pixie, an arachnophobe (spider phobic) overcome her fears for an item on the Channel 4 programme Embarrassing Bodies.
WARNING – THIS VIDEO CONTAINS IMAGES OF SPIDERS
A useful way of removing this type of fear is through what is called ‘progressive desensitisation’.
Imagine running a marathon. No one without training would just set off in the hope of completing the 26 miles. Rather, you would train a little each day and slowly increase the distance covered and the speed and ease with which the run can be completed. It is the same when dealing with a phobia.
We break the fear down into small and manageable components, and then learn a competing response – in the case of this program relaxation – to overcome even the slightest feelings of anxiety.
In other words, we progressively desensitise to the fear by breaking our phobia into ‘bite sized’ segments.
This is the approach which I teach in my book Fight Your Phobia and Win. It is widely recognised by psychologists as one of the most effective forms of treatment, whether by a professional or as a self-help programme.