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The next few blogs are all about phobias, what they are, why we have them and things you can do to help get rid of them.
A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. It’s an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something and is much more pronounced than just an everyday fear. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object, this over time and often over years, can become very severe. In the worse cases a phobia can be debilitating, with you having to organise your life around avoiding the thing that are causing the anxiety. This becomes super restricting for your day-to-day life, causing a lot of distress. The way phobias are formed are by our initial fears, then by the continued ever increasing avoidance patterns and then our unconscious mind then starts to automate this response.
There are two types of phobias, specific ones such as animals, dentists and heights then more complex ones such as, social phobias and agoraphobia the fear of leaving your home.
If you are afraid of something you have to see or have to do a lot, this can start to have a serious impact on your everyday life. If you don’t come into contact with it much, such as snakes or say flying, this can sometimes have less of an impact on you. However, you may still experience fear and anxiety even when the object or situation is not present, meaning that your phobia can still affect you on a daily basis. All phobias are different for each individual and some peoples are much more severe than other, I believe the intensity of the first instance, avoidance, time and our personal disposition all play an impact on how intense our phobias can become.
You are probably aware of the more common phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and agoraphobia (fear of open places). You need a dictionary just to work your way through all the different names given for each individual phobia! So I prefer to use the everyday words for these issues as the names I think can dramatise and label us which can be a hindrance to change. After 24 years I have seen lots of phobias from the common ones such as fears of being sick, heights, flying, cancer, dogs, cats, crowds, needles, hospitals and germs. To them some more unusual ones such as buttons, midgets, the supernatural, butterfly’s, speaking, being possessed, knocking people over and losing your mind.
A lot of people can find certain social situations difficult, or feel shy or awkward at times – this is completely normal. But if we start avoiding things and life seems more of a challenge it can over time become a social phobia, you will feel a sense of intense fear in social situations, and will often try to avoid them completely. You will start worrying consciously and even unconsciously about the social events that bothers you, during it and also after it has happened, like a kind of post-mortem. These phobias can be extremely debilitating and can make it very difficult to engage in everyday activities even things like meeting new people, talking on the phone, even eating out or shopping. There are of course more normal initial fears, when say talking in groups or public speaking, or live performances, there will always be some nerves but with a good mind set these can also become comfortable for you.
You might worry about the situations because you fear that others will judge you negatively or you will offend others by doing or saying something. Also, you may worry about people noticing you are anxious, if you start to blush, sweat or your hands shake. You may feel body conscious about how you look, smell and even how your voice sounds, if it sounds anxious, stumble over words or can’t get your words out. Having a social phobia can have a huge effect on your daily life, it will affect your self-confidence and self-esteem and can at its worst make you feel extremely isolated. Some people can put up a good front and present as confident but they will be lacking inner confidence and those internal feelings of safety and security. It can make it very difficult to develop and maintain relationships and can interfere with your ability to work and live a happy relaxed life.
I have suffered from social phobias, I was awkward at school and couldn’t cope with the interacting well with most people. I then went on to suffer from sever social phobia right through to my teens to the point that I could even pass out in certain crowded situation. I was very good at hiding it and many people wouldn’t have known but I feel this made me isolated and different from everyone else. I came into this field after trying lots of things to help get better, it was life changing for me and I am now one of the most social, secure, confident people you can meet. So, if this is you, don’t give up hope you can let this go completely it may take time and perseverance but it can be done.
For some people, they have let the phobias spread even further and they even struggle to leave their home, the fear of the fear becomes so over powering, with your comfort zones becoming smaller and limiting. This can include fears of being outside alone, open spaces, travel and even being on your own, with many of these situations people will be experiencing high levels of anxiety. The circles of anxiety grow and avoidance is the key. Many of you may already know these facts but I thought it was worth clarifying so that you can see that the true underlying issues of all phobias is fear and avoidance. Put those two together and it a recipe for disaster as your unconscious mind is just a computer, it’s non-intelligent creating and holding onto these patterns and habits.
We input the messages into our mind and the habits start forming, this part of our mind is all about keeping us safe it thinks it’s helping us. If we’re avoiding something your mind doesn’t know the difference between avoiding a deadly grizzly bear or a button, if we keep feeding the habits with avoidance then the mind will continue to embed fear into these things. The pleasure is if we have spiralled into these patterns, avoidance and habits of fear we can spiral out again. Yes, it will take time and in the most severe cases maybe hypnotherapy and EMDR will be extremely helpful, but our patterns of living and behaving are created by the fear, so we can spiral back out again. With phobias, it is best to take steady steps and not run before you can walk, over the next couple of blogs I will help you find ways to understand the journey and give you strategies to help you start making these positive changes.
Thanks for dropping by,
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