Phobias affect an estimated 10 million people of all ages and all walks of life. Fear is a normal human response, designed to keep us safe from danger.
The problems come when our fear response becomes irrational or too extreme. This is when fear becomes a phobia.
Phobia, anxiety and panic attacks tend to go hand in hand.
Symptoms of panic attacks include the following:
- feeling short of breath
- chest pain
- feeling faint
- fear of dying
- fear of losing control.
Understandably, these symptoms make for a terrifying experience. At the heart of many panic attacks is the sense that you’re losing control of a situation. For many people with a phobia, it isn’t just the situation or object they become anxious about, it’s the anticipation of having a panic attack – essentially it becomes a fear of fear itself.
There are several approaches you can take to overcome panic and phobias, including:
Avoiding the situation/object that triggers your fear can make matters worse. Try to expose yourself to the anxiety-inducing situation/object slowly and gradually. Pushing yourself too far too quickly may result in setbacks.
Learning how to breathe
Hyperventilation occurs when we over-breathe. This can happen when you’re having a panic attack and can bring on more physical symptoms like feeling light-headed. To avoid this, practise slow (but not too deep), deliberate breathing. Breathe from the top of your chest and try to take some exercise every day.
Coping with catastrophic thoughts
Logic tends to go out the window when we panic, so it can help to try and look at the evidence when panicking. You can try this by thinking about past experiences – what happened? Did you have the heart attack you thought you would? Remembering that it is your mind making you feel like this and not your body can be useful. It may also help to write a list of rational statements and have them to hand to look at them when you start to feel panicky.
Hypnotherapy for phobias
Hypnotherapy is a great technique to use when the mind has limiting thoughts. This happens when you have a phobia – your mind is limited to thinking about only the worst case scenarios. A hypnotherapist can use the power of hypnosis to re-train your thought patterns. Suggestions made during hypnosis can help you to stay calmer and gain more control when a panic-inducing situation takes place.
This form of therapy can also teach you valuable relaxation techniques. Many hypnotherapists will also teach clients self-hypnosis. This often involves teaching you to create a trigger for times when you’re anxious. You may carry out a relaxation exercise while picturing yourself somewhere calm and safe. At this point you can pinch the skin on your hand. The idea here is that when you feel anxious, you can make the same action, pinching your hand, and you will be reminded of the calm, tranquil sensation.