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Everything you always wanted to know about phobias


The term phobias is used a lot these days without people knowing exactly what they’re talking about. In this post I have put together all the facts around phobias, what a phobia is, but even more importantly how you can overcome a phobia.

What is are phobias?

  • A type of anxiety disorder
  • Extreme form of fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as going outside) or object (such as spiders), even when there is no danger
  • Example: you know a balcony is safe, but that still doesn’t reduce your anxiety about going onto it
  • Sometimes just thinking or talking about the particular situation or object can cause you to feel afraid.

Are phobias a mental health problem?

We all have fears about particular objects or situations, and this is perfectly normal.

A fear becomes a phobia if:

  • the fear is out of proportion to the danger.
  • it lasts for more than 6 months.
  • it has a significant impact on how you live your day-to-day life.

Statistically approx. 9% of people have a phobia – 3 people in a class at school.

When should I get help?

If it interferes with your everyday life or keeps you from doing things you would otherwise enjoy, it may be time to seek help.

Consider getting treatment for your phobia if:

  • you experience intense and disabling fear, anxiety or panic
  • your fear is out of proportion to the real danger
  • you avoid certain situations and places because of your phobia
  • it interferes with your normal routine or causes significant distress
  • it stops you getting support for other health problems – for example, it stops you using the phone or seeing the doctor
  • it lasts longer than 6 months

What can I do to help myself?

Learning to manage and accept the panic and anxiety can be challenging but can help you to feel more in control. The more you fight and avoid the fear, the more force it will take on.

  • Talk to someone you trust.
  • Try taking a mindful breathing space You can download my 3 minute Mindful Breathing Space meditation here.
  • Controlled exposure technique: tiny step by tiny step so that you gradually acclimatise yourself. This is also known as desensitisation or exposure therapy. You will probably need a therapist to help you with this. For instance, if you are scared of something start by reading about it, then look at pictures and progress from there.

Create an Anchor

As you know, just telling yourself to keep calm probably doesn’t work, as the feelings you have can be very strong. Sometimes you need an equally strong, opposite feeling to counteract your fear. Decide what your feeling needs to be. An excited anticipation feeling is often ideal.

We are all individuals, but here is a popular example from some of my clients: imagining you are in the queue for a theme park ride (don’t use this if that is your fear obviously). People who love those rides get butterflies in their tummy; they are excited in a good way. Another example would be the excited feelings you have before a big festival, like Christmas or Eid or a family holiday or gathering.

Charge up your anchor like a phone battery

  1. You need to do this when you’re relaxed
  2. Do this often
  3. Vividly remember or imagine the scenario that makes you feel excited. You need to “be there” in your imagination.
  4. Press your thumb and finger together to create the physical anchor
  5. Keep doing this over and over again until just pressing your fingers together creates the excited anticipation feelings.

Then visualise the situation in vivid detail that causes your fear BUT imagine everything going perfectly just as you would like it to be.  Feel your posture, the smile on your face, use all your senses.  You are in control!

How the Live Well Practice can help

If these self-help tips are not enough, then you may need to seek the help of a professional. I find hypnotherapy works really well for this so if you would like to find out how it can help you, you can book straight into my diary in for a complimentary session.

If you’re phobia is related to needles, please check out my Fear of Needles page.

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