What are Phobias?

Phobias are an extreme or irrational fear of an object or situation and can cause a lot of distress. They can restrict day-to-day life and, in severe cases, an individual may organise their life around avoiding the thing they’re afraid of. If the phobia can’t be avoided entirely, intense anxiety will result.

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The best treatment for phobias is a form of psychotherapy called exposure therapy. Understanding the cause of a phobia is actually less important than focusing on how to treat the avoidance behaviour that has developed over time.

As you learn how to better manage and relate to your reactions, thoughts and feelings, you’ll find that your anxiety and fear are reduced and no longer in control of your life. Treatment is usually directed at one specific phobia at a time.


Exposure therapy and CBT are the most effective treatments.

Exposure therapy focuses on changing your response to the object or situation that you fear. Gradual, repeated exposure to the source of your specific phobia and the related thoughts, feelings and sensations may help you learn to manage your anxiety. For example, if you’re afraid of lifts, your therapy may progress from simply thinking about getting into a lift, to looking at pictures of elevators, to going near a lift, to stepping into a lift. Next, you may take a one-floor ride, then ride several floors, and then ride in a crowded lift.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves exposure combined with other techniques to learn ways to view and cope with the feared object or situation differently. You learn alternative beliefs about your fears and bodily sensations and the impact they’ve had on your life. CBT emphasizes learning to develop a sense of mastery and confidence with your thoughts and feelings rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.

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    A phobias case study

    This female client had recently become pregnant and needed to have regular blood tests due to the risk of her baby having Down’s Syndrome. However, she had suffered from a phobia of blood and needles since the age of 10; she regularly fainted at the sight of blood.

    We suggested four hypnotherapy sessions focused on reprocessing her experience of the original trauma that caused her phobia. It involved teaching NLP-style coping techniques for emotional state management and self-hypnosis for relaxation.

    Whilst she was open to the idea of hypnotherapy, she was nervous about the prospect of having to confront her fear. Much of the first session involved metaphorical hand-holding – pacing the session and leading her according to her level of comfort. After the four sessions, she was able to take the required blood tests without any adverse effect.

    She later returned for further help in physically and mentally preparing herself for the birth of her child using hypnobirthing techniques. She is now the proud mother of a healthy baby girl.

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