A phobia is an intense, irrational fear of an object or situation. You can develop a phobia to anything. The symptoms can range from uncomfortable feelings of anxiety and apprehension to a distressing panic attack. If you have a phobia, and many of us do, you will be aware that you have exaggerated the threat; your rational mind will tell you that the danger is minimal or non-existent but your response is not within your conscious control. Some people feel ashamed of their fears and consequent behaviour so are secretive. Feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness can also add to the sufferer’s distress.
If you have a phobia it can have a significant impact on your life. You may avoid certain situations which in turn influence career and relationship decisions and affect your happiness and well-being. The symptoms of social phobia (some examples are blushing, stammering, lack of confidence and fear of public speaking) can cause untold distress. Agoraphobia is debilitating and to a lesser extent claustrophobia. There are many, many known phobias - fear of flying, the dark, thunder storms, injections, certain animals, the list goes on and one or more of these phobias may be all too familiar to you.
How did I develop this phobia?
All phobias have a common purpose – to keep us safe- no matter how unrealistic the danger. Phobias are almost always learned in childhood, though the symptoms may not appear for many years. In order to develop a phobic response you need to experience a state of high anxiety. The mind will then associate those fearful emotions with an object or a situation. The object or situation may have in some way caused your anxiety in the first place, for example if you are bitten by a dog. However, this is not always the case, it is the association that the brain makes that is important. So you could develop a phobia of flowers because you were arranging flowers when you received some upsetting news. We can also learn fears from our parents and guardians. Watching a mother scream and hide under the table when there is a thunderstorm can have a powerful effect on a young child. Phobias that develop later in life are usually the result of severe emotional trauma such as the death of a loved one or the stress of a divorce.
How can we help?
Most fears and phobias respond well and quickly to therapy and it doesn’t matter how long you have experienced the fear. We will help to alleviate your anxiety and change the associations in the brain which cause your phobic response so that you can overcome your phobia and relax in situations where formally you panicked.