Phobias are a subcategory of anxiety (see section on Anxiety – Stress – Panic Disorders), one that focuses on a specific object or situation. While fear of spiders, flying, heights or small enclosed spaces are commonly known, for example, anything can become the trigger causing the phobia.
The level of phobia
The level of phobia varies widely as well, from mild discomfort to a state that can turn rapidly into fainting or a panic attack. Common symptoms, however, include
- Increased heart rate (palpitations)
- Dizziness or unsteadiness
- Getting sick to the stomach or having butterflies
- Getting short of breath
If you are suffering from a phobia, you will also do what you can to avoid having to face the object or situation you have a phobia about.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM–V) is the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) classification and diagnostic tool. In the United States it is the reference authority for psychiatric diagnoses.
The DSM-V psychiatric categorizes phobias into two broad categories: simple and complex.
The entire simple phobia category consists of what is called “specific” phobias: fears that focus on one thing. These are fairly easy to treat, and are broken down into several subcategories:
- Animal type – Fear of snakes, spiders, birds, rats, cats, dogs, etc.
- Natural environment type – Fear of heights, fear of water, etc.
- Situational type – Fear of small confined spaces, fear of the dark, etc.
- Blood/injection/injury type – Fear of needles, blood, injury, medical procedures, etc.
- Other – Fear of loud noises, clowns, vomiting, choking, etc.
This category consists of two types of fears: agoraphobia and social phobia (social anxiety). If you suffer from a complex phobia, you will know, it has a much bigger impact on your daily life than a simple phobia.
“I can’t believe it. After years of refusing to set foot on a plane, we have just got back from a wonderful stay in Milan where we flew to see our new grandson, and I was just fine! The hypnotherapy really worked! And my husband is thrilled that we can now take a holiday in another country now…;-)”
– Julie D.
Agoraphobia is driven by the need to be in a safe place, and can be combined or caused by a fear of germs, social anxiety, or other.
Social phobia, or the fear of social situations, is driven by anxiety over how others may judge you, and can be combined or caused by phobias about blushing, sweating or other.
Most phobias develop during childhood or adolescence, but a number of other causes can come into play: a traumatic experience, a genetic predisposition to anxiety, ongoing stress, learning it from a family member.
Millions of people suffer from phobias, but by avoiding the cause of their phobia, many of them simply don’t encounter the trigger and therefore can live untroubled lives for the most part.
Treatment by hypnotherapy
After first conducting a fears inventory, hypnotherapy in the form of systematic desensitization is the best way of attack. After listing a hierarchy of increasingly powerful triggers around the specific phobia, the client is taught relaxation techniques and then conditioned under hypnosis to remain calm under increasingly difficult circumstances.
This hierarchy was from a client who consulted for a fear of flying:
- Arriving at the airport
- Boarding the plane
- Sitting in plane with engines off
- Sitting in plane as engines start
- Plane taxiing on runway
- During takeoff
- During landing
- Short journey in plane
- Medium journey in plane
- Long journey in plane
- Experiencing mild turbulence in plane
- Experiencing strong turbulence in plane
By reliving manageable experiences around the phobia under hypnosis and practicing relaxation techniques, it is very possible to gain control over your fears.