Phobias and Hypnosis

February 28th, 2012 § 1 comment

What is the difference between a fear and a phobia?  A fear response is generally a spontaneous “on the spot” reaction to a stimulus or situation. A phobic response on the other hand generally results in a variety of physical manifestations such as an elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, sweaty clammy hands, shaky voice, dizziness, a feeling of suffocation or inability to breathe. A phobic response genuinely feels like life or death for many people. Often, this response can be triggered by the mere thought of, or even a photograph of the stimulus.

Some of the more common phobias I see in my clinical hypnotherapy practice at Intuitive Hypnosis in Portland, Oregon are:
•    Flying
•    Bridges
•    Snakes
•    Spiders
•    Public Speaking
•    Needles
•    Elevators

How do we define Phobia?
“A phobia is defined as the unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing that causes one to want to avoid it. Phobias are largely under-reported, probably because many phobia sufferers find ways to avoid the situations to which they are phobic. Therefore, statistics that estimate how many people suffer from phobias vary widely, but at minimum, phobias afflict more than 6 million people in the United States. Other facts about phobias include that these illnesses have been thought to affect up to 28 out of every 100 people, and in all western countries, phobias strike 7%-13% of the population. Women tend to be twice as likely to suffer from a phobia compared to men.” (See Phobias Picture Slideshow: What Are You Afraid Of?)

Many phobias start at a young age often because young children are unable to understand that their fear, or phobia, of something is irrational. As they grow and mature, it is common for the phobia to go away. However, for many adults, that irrational fear, phobia, stays with them into adulthood despite their conscious understanding that it is irrational. Under hypnosis, it is possible to re-frame the initial sensitizing event, and learn to maintain a state of peaceful relaxation when confronted with the stimulus, resulting in the dissolution of the phobic response.

If left untreated, phobias can seriously interfere with one’s life style and/or daily routine by attempts to avoid or conceal it. Unchecked phobias can result in problems with friends and family, failure in school, job loss, sleep disorders, and other health issues. Consider living in Portland, Oregon and having a phobia of bridges. Trying to structure your activities to avoid driving over a bridge in Portland presents quite a challenge.

When treating clients with phobias, I spend a lot of time gathering information from them to gain an understanding of how their phobia started, what triggers it, how it manifests, and more. Careful listening and asking the right questions provides the opportunity to gain the insights necessary to find out what caused the phobia, or what the true nature of the phobia is.

For example, a client describing a fear of elevators, airplanes, and small cars is more than likely actually expressing a fear of enclosed spaces. With additional questioning, it is often possible to identify the initial sensitizing event, and by using specific techniques under hypnosis is able to eliminate the irrational fear and phobic reaction.

By using a variety of techniques under hypnosis, clients are able to establish new neural pathways allowing them to experience the phobic stimulus without the typical phobic response, or panic attack. Repetition and reinforcement is the key to re-training your subconscious mind when it comes to eliminating or significantly reducing the phobic response.

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