Whether you are severely concerned about the dentist, needles, spiders, cats, insects, snakes, lifts, heights, flying or vomiting (emetophobia) with professional help it can be possible to reduce and eliminate phobias

Why do some people develop phobias? Some people develop phobias because other people in their family have the same phobia. If a child watches their parent run away from a spider or witnesses repeated anxiety in someone else they are likley to link the situation or object with fear and learn the same response.

Sometimes there has been an initial sensitising event the phobia can be traced back to. A frightening and bad experience of a dental visit can be held in the memory for years and build a fear of dentists and / or any other similar medical visits. An experience with a dog or cat (which was unexpected) as a child (being bitten, being surprised) often is imprinted on the mind of those who have dog or cat phobias. It can be diffcult for others to understand because domestic pets are not seen by others as an object of fear.

Phobias sometimes develop as a result of background free floating anxiety. If there has been several life changes or emotional stressors the hat (anxiety) finds a hook to hang itself on (phobia).

Phobias can develop as a result of a paired response for example: feeling worried or anxious about something unrelated in an aircraft or on a motorway when driving which trasnlates into a fear of flying or driving on a motorway.

Phobias may start as a result of natural survival instincts: eg. some snakes and spiders are poisonous, heights can be dangerous…but lose rational context (we imagine we will encounter such genuine danger more frequently than is likely and wont be able to avert it).

Occasionally keeping a phobia is a way of gaining something (albeit unintentionally and not consciously). For example gaining a “reward” of attention or help. If someone always comes to the aid of the distressed phobia sufferer (but is usually not available or does not notice them) that reinforces the phobic response.

It could be a combination and treatment involves understanding how the phobia has been set up, triggered and maintained as well as starting to reverse and reduce the phobic response and behaviours.

CBT, Hypnotherapy and EMDR are all useful ways to deal with phobias.

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Doctor Melanie Phelps BSc.(Hons). MA.MSc. PhD.

The initial consultation is free and without obligation.