|Remember that the first important point to realize is that you are not alone; there are many people in the world today who suffer from rational and irrational fears and phobias. In my practice, I would estimate that around 40% of the clients come to see me require help overcoming phobias, and in many cases, clients who have come to see me for something else normally enquire whether I can help them with a phobia in a different session.
“Phobias are an unreasonable sort of fear that can cause avoidance and panic. Phobias are a relatively common type of anxiety disorder” [Medicine Net]
What's covered on this page?
A phobia is a high anxiety response to an object, situation, or even a thought. (For more on this, see 'Panic Attacks'). There are as many phobias as you can name different things in the world. Some of them have been given long scary latin names like agoraphobia and claustrophobia, but the important point to take from this is that, in general, all phobias work the same way in the brain, so it doesn’t really matter whether you have a phobia of flying, ants, cats, dogs, fish, buttons, driving, stuffed animals, rubber, balloons, wide spaces, narrow spaces, heights or anything else…they generally all work in a similar way in the same parts of the brain.
It is at this stage with my clients that I normally suggest that you forget about what your phobia is called, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that that phobias are simple to understand and usually easy and quick to treat. This does not in any way diminish the fact that for you, the person with the phobia, the intensity of terror can often be disabling and horrific.
In general, your phobia will take one of two forms, specific or non-specific.
A number of people with phobias have a specific phobia. A specific phobia is an intense fear (or panic attack) triggered by a particular object or situation. This will normally be something like “spiders”, “balloons” or even more specific like “big, hairy spiders” or “blue balloons”
A non-specific phobia is a more generalised fear such as agoraphobia (fear of open spaces). It still works in a similar way to specific phobias in that the fear appears to be attached to something, but less specific.
Quite often phobias cause people to be scared of non-threatening objects (like buttons or balloons), and so they are often regarded as irrational and ridiculous. This is of course quite close to the truth because a phobia has nothing to do with the thinking, rational part of the brain.
A phobic response is simply your instinctive survival mechanism not working correctly. Knowing this may be comforting, however rarely helps you prevent it from happening. Well meaning attempts to talk someone out of a phobia nearly always end in failure and frustration.
What is the fight or flight response?
The fight or flight response can be seen as one of the most important parts of your instinctive programming - a highly efficient survival response for dangerous situations. When humans walked the earth amongst wild animals and enemy tribes, threats were simple and straight forward but often very dangerous. This response is also sometimes called the “fight, flight or flee” response. When we encountered a threatening situation, it was important that we were automatically primed to be able to handle it, by staying and fighting, fleeing, or in some cases freezing (and playing dead as displayed by some animals).
Readying you to be able to effectively react in this way includes some of the following physiological changes
- Increasing production of adrenaline and cortisol in the body
- Increased heart rate
- Breathlessness (or faster, shallower breathing)
- Feeling more highly aroused, and very highly focused on the “trigger” at the expense of being able to concentrate on anything else
- Sweaty palms
- Shut down of non-essential systems such as digestive systems, sexual function, and swallowing reflex
These are quite similar to the physiological responses when you experience a panic attack, and it can be useful to think of the fight or flight response as a form of panic attack being triggered to protect you. This is also why the mind of a human being can trigger a panic attack fast and automatically (unconsciously). People who suffer panic attacks often report that "they come from nowhere" and this is an essential part of the fight or flight response.
If you are in a threatening situation and you have to think before initiating the hormonal and physiological changes associated with the flight or fight response, it may well be too late. Alternatively, you might make the wrong choice, so the unconscious part of your mind takes care of it, overriding all logic. And of course, in a survival situation, it is better to respond as if danger is present when it's not, rather than the other way round.
In today’s environment, some of the old threats have now all but dissapeared (e.g. Roaming wild animals although I am not sure about the disappearance of hostile enemy tribes!). However the fight or flight mechanism still exists and works as effectively. It can sometimes learn or form faulty associations between a perceived “life threatening” situation and the automatic need to panic or trigger the fight or flight response. This could be as harmless as being frightened by the popping of a balloon when you were a child, and then from that point on associating balloons as potentially life threatening (at the neurological level). From then on you may find that each time you see (or even think of) a balloon, the fight or flight response (or panic) automatically triggers.
Unconscious or emotional learning takes place to keep you safe. In primitive conditions when coming into contact with something dangerous, your mind/body would create the optimum state for survival - a panic attack (See above)
This type of learning is not of the logical, intellectual, or rational nature. If you had to think, “Hhhmmmm, I wonder if now might be a good time to have a panic attack" the the human race would have died out long ago. This type of learning takes place at an emotional level so that the response can bypass the ‘thinking brain'. In the past, an immediate phobic response to a predatory or poisonous animal would have been extremely useful.
Humans have thus evolved with the ability to become phobic. In today’s complex world however, this learning mechanism often works in an inappropriate way. As an example, consider the example in which a child playing with a balloon gets a bad fright when it unexpectedly pops, and from that point on he develops an irrational phobia of rubber, and he may not even recall how it developed in the first place.
To become phobic, all you need is a high anxiety state paired with an object. The object does not have to be causing the anxiety as in the above example.
You can also generate a phobia through the misuse of the imagination. Children often get phobias this way, or by seeing a phobic parent experiencing a phobia.
Non-specific phobias can come about either through a 'spreading-out' of panic attacks, or through a person's levels of general anxiety becoming so high that panic is easily triggered whenever stress levels are raised even slightly.
What can be done to remove phobias?
In order to cure a phobia (which is usually surprisingly easy and painless) you need to change the experience on an unconscious level.
Simplistically, you need to be able to treat the phobic object in the same way as you would any other everyday object. The best way to do this is to get you relaxed, and keep you in that state, whilst you imagine the phobic object. Hypnosis is extremely useful to keep you relaxed whilst doing this. This process is called 'de-conditioning', and it simply changes the association you have with the phobic trigger..
There are a number of astonishingly effective methods for de-conditioning the phobia, most notably the rewind technique, which is based on the NLP fast phobia cure created by Richard Bandler. Although this can probably be done on your own, it is far more effective if done by a therapist who is trained in using this technique. The rewind technique website provides details of where you can find such therapists.
Another newer technique which is also extremely effective for dealing with phobias is Integral Eye Movement Therapy created by Andrew Austin.
When dealing with non-specific phobias, the person often needs a combination of the above de-conditioning together with anxiety management techniques, ongoing relaxation and gradual exposure to the problem situation, such as going out of the house.
As a therapist who is trained in all of the above techniques and who has successfully helped many phobics deal with their issue, I will employ whatever technique works best for you. Sometimes I will combine more than one technique to ensure we eradicate the phobia. It is always interesting and satisfying to see how a person’s life can dramatically change once you are free from the clutches of your phobia.
Please note: Before undertaking any therapy, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor if you are on any medication for chronic pain, anxiety or depression.
What type of phobias are there?
As noted earlier, it normally does not matter what kind of phobia(s) you have of, because the process of triggering the phobic response in the brain is pretty much the same in most cases. In the interest of ensuring this page gets noticed by search engines (being blatantly honest about it!!!), and for your own interest, here is a comprehensive list of phobias. The website http://www.phobialist.com contains one of the most comprehensive lists I have seen. I am sure this list grows every day as new things get introduced into the world.
Ablutophobia- Fear of washing or bathing.
Acarophobia- Fear of itching or of the insects that cause itching.
Acerophobia- Fear of sourness.
Achluophobia- Fear of darkness.
Acousticophobia- Fear of noise.
Acrophobia- Fear of heights.
Aerophobia- Fear of drafts, air swallowing, or airbourne noxious substances.
Aeroacrophobia- Fear of open high places.
Aeronausiphobia- Fear of vomiting secondary to airsickness.
Agateophobia- Fear of insanity.
Agliophobia- Fear of pain.
Agoraphobia- Fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets. Fear of leaving a safe place.
Agraphobia- Fear of sexual abuse.
Agrizoophobia- Fear of wild animals.
Agyrophobia- Fear of streets or crossing the street.
Aichmophobia- Fear of needles or pointed objects.
Ailurophobia- Fear of cats.
Albuminurophobia- Fear of kidney disease.
Alektorophobia- Fear of chickens.
Algophobia- Fear of pain.
Alliumphobia- Fear of garlic.
Allodoxaphobia- Fear of opinions.
Altophobia- Fear of heights.
Amathophobia- Fear of dust.
Amaxophobia- Fear of riding in a car.
Ambulophobia- Fear of walking.
Amnesiphobia- Fear of amnesia.
Amychophobia- Fear of scratches or being scratched.
Anablephobia- Fear of looking up.
Ancraophobia- Fear of wind. (Anemophobia)
Androphobia- Fear of men.
Anemophobia- Fear of air drafts or wind.(Ancraophobia)
Anginophobia- Fear of angina, choking or narrowness.
Anglophobia- Fear of England or English culture, etc.
Angrophobia - Fear of anger or of becoming angry.
Ankylophobia- Fear of immobility of a joint.
Anthrophobia or Anthophobia- Fear of flowers.
Anthropophobia- Fear of people or society.
Antlophobia- Fear of floods.
Anuptaphobia- Fear of staying single.
Apeirophobia- Fear of infinity.
Aphenphosmphobia- Fear of being touched. (Haphephobia)
Apiphobia- Fear of bees.
Apotemnophobia- Fear of persons with amputations.
Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
Arachnephobia or Arachnophobia- Fear of spiders.
Arithmophobia- Fear of numbers.
Arrhenphobia- Fear of men.
Arsonphobia- Fear of fire.
Asthenophobia- Fear of fainting or weakness.
Astraphobia or Astrapophobia- Fear of thunder and lightning.(Ceraunophobia, Keraunophobia)
Astrophobia- Fear of stars or celestial space.
Asymmetriphobia- Fear of asymmetrical things.
Ataxiophobia- Fear of ataxia. (muscular incoordination)
Ataxophobia- Fear of disorder or untidiness.
Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection.
Atephobia- Fear of ruin or ruins.
Athazagoraphobia- Fear of being forgotton or ignored or forgetting.
Atomosophobia- Fear of atomic explosions.
Atychiphobia- Fear of failure.
Aulophobia- Fear of flutes.
Aurophobia- Fear of gold.
Auroraphobia- Fear of Northern lights.
Autodysomophobia- Fear of one that has a vile odor.
Automatonophobia- Fear of ventriloquist's dummies, animatronic creatures, wax statues - anything that falsly represents a sentient being.
Automysophobia- Fear of being dirty.
Autophobia- Fear of being alone or of oneself.
Aviophobia or Aviatophobia- Fear of flying.
Bacillophobia- Fear of microbes.
Bacteriophobia- Fear of bacteria.
Ballistophobia- Fear of missiles or bullets.
Bolshephobia- Fear of Bolsheviks.
Barophobia- Fear of gravity.
Basophobia or Basiphobia- Inability to stand. Fear of walking or falling.
Bathmophobia- Fear of stairs or steep slopes.
Bathophobia- Fear of depth.
Batophobia- Fear of heights or being close to high buildings.
Batrachophobia- Fear of amphibians, such as frogs, newts, salamanders, etc.
Belonephobia- Fear of pins and needles. (Aichmophobia)
Bibliophobia- Fear of books.
Blennophobia- Fear of slime.
Bogyphobia- Fear of bogeys or the bogeyman.
Botanophobia- Fear of plants.
Bromidrosiphobia or Bromidrophobia- Fear of body smells.
Brontophobia- Fear of thunder and lightning.
Bufonophobia- Fear of toads.
Cacophobia- Fear of ugliness.
Cainophobia or Cainotophobia- Fear of newness, novelty.
Caligynephobia- Fear of beautiful women.
Cancerophobia or Carcinophobia- Fear of cancer.
Cardiophobia- Fear of the heart.
Carnophobia- Fear of meat.
Catagelophobia- Fear of being ridiculed.
Catapedaphobia- Fear of jumping from high and low places.
Cathisophobia- Fear of sitting.
Catoptrophobia- Fear of mirrors.
Cenophobia or Centophobia- Fear of new things or ideas.
Ceraunophobia or Keraunophobia- Fear of thunder and lightning.(Astraphobia, Astrapophobia)
Chaetophobia- Fear of hair.
Cheimaphobia or Cheimatophobia- Fear of cold.(Frigophobia, Psychophobia)
Chemophobia- Fear of chemicals or working with chemicals.
Cherophobia- Fear of gaiety.
Chionophobia- Fear of snow.
Chiraptophobia- Fear of being touched.
Chirophobia- Fear of hands.
Cholerophobia- Fear of anger or the fear of cholera.
Chorophobia- Fear of dancing.
Chrometophobia or Chrematophobia- Fear of money.
Chromophobia or Chromatophobia- Fear of colors.
Chronophobia- Fear of time.
Chronomentrophobia- Fear of clocks.
Cibophobia- Fear of food.(Sitophobia, Sitiophobia)
Claustrophobia- Fear of confined spaces.
Cleithrophobia or Cleisiophobia- Fear of being locked in an enclosed place.
Cleptophobia- Fear of stealing.
Climacophobia- Fear of stairs, climbing, or of falling downstairs.
Clinophobia- Fear of going to bed.
Clithrophobia or Cleithrophobia- Fear of being enclosed.
Cnidophobia- Fear of stings.
Cometophobia- Fear of comets.
Coimetrophobia- Fear of cemeteries.
Coitophobia- Fear of coitus.
Contreltophobia- Fear of sexual abuse.
Coprastasophobia- Fear of constipation.
Coprophobia- Fear of feces.
Consecotaleophobia- Fear of chopsticks.
Coulrophobia- Fear of clowns.
Counterphobia- The preference by a phobic for fearful situations.
Cremnophobia- Fear of precipices.
Cryophobia- Fear of extreme cold, ice or frost.
Crystallophobia- Fear of crystals or glass.
Cyberphobia- Fear of computers or working on a computer.
Cyclophobia- Fear of bicycles.
Cymophobia or Kymophobia- Fear of waves or wave like motions.
Cynophobia- Fear of dogs or rabies.
Cypridophobia or Cypriphobia or Cyprianophobia or Cyprinophobia - Fear of prostitutes or venereal disease.
Decidophobia- Fear of making decisions.
Defecaloesiophobia- Fear of painful bowels movements.
Deipnophobia- Fear of dining or dinner conversations.
Dementophobia- Fear of insanity.
Demonophobia or Daemonophobia- Fear of demons.
Demophobia- Fear of crowds. (Agoraphobia)
Dendrophobia- Fear of trees.
Dentophobia- Fear of dentists.
Dermatophobia- Fear of skin lesions.
Dermatosiophobia or Dermatophobia or Dermatopathophobia- Fear of skin disease.
Dextrophobia- Fear of objects at the right side of the body.
Diabetophobia- Fear of diabetes.
Didaskaleinophobia- Fear of going to school.
Dikephobia- Fear of justice.
Dinophobia- Fear of dizziness or whirlpools.
Diplophobia- Fear of double vision.
Dipsophobia- Fear of drinking.
Dishabiliophobia- Fear of undressing in front of someone.
Domatophobia- Fear of houses or being in a house.(Eicophobia, Oikophobia)
Doraphobia- Fear of fur or skins of animals.
Doxophobia- Fear of expressing opinions or of receiving praise.
Dromophobia- Fear of crossing streets.
Dutchphobia- Fear of the Dutch.
Dysmorphophobia- Fear of deformity.
Dystychiphobia- Fear of accidents.
Ecclesiophobia- Fear of church.
Ecophobia- Fear of home.
Eicophobia- Fear of home surroundings.(Domatophobia, Oikophobia)
Eisoptrophobia- Fear of mirrors or of seeing oneself in a mirror.
Electrophobia- Fear of electricity.
Eleutherophobia- Fear of freedom.
Elurophobia- Fear of cats. (Ailurophobia)
Emetophobia- Fear of vomiting.
Enetophobia- Fear of pins.
Enochlophobia- Fear of crowds.
Enosiophobia or Enissophobia- Fear of having committed an unpardonable sin or of criticism.
Entomophobia- Fear of insects.
Eosophobia- Fear of dawn or daylight.
Ephebiphobia- Fear of teenagers.
Epistaxiophobia- Fear of nosebleeds.
Epistemophobia- Fear of knowledge.
Equinophobia- Fear of horses.
Eremophobia- Fear of being oneself or of lonliness.
Ereuthrophobia- Fear of blushing.
Ergasiophobia- 1) Fear of work or functioning. 2) Surgeon's fear of operating.
Ergophobia- Fear of work.
Erotophobia- Fear of sexual love or sexual questions.
Euphobia- Fear of hearing good news.
Eurotophobia- Fear of female genitalia.
Erythrophobia or Erytophobia or Ereuthophobia- 1) Fear of redlights. 2) Blushing. 3) Red.
Febriphobia or Fibriphobia or Fibriophobia- Fear of fever.
Felinophobia- Fear of cats. (Ailurophobia, Elurophobia, Galeophobia, Gatophobia)
Francophobia- Fear of France or French culture. (Gallophobia, Galiophobia)
Frigophobia- Fear of cold or cold things.(Cheimaphobia, Cheimatophobia, Psychrophobia)
Galeophobia or Gatophobia- Fear of cats.
Gallophobia or Galiophobia- Fear France or French culture. (Francophobia)
Gamophobia- Fear of marriage.
Geliophobia- Fear of laughter.
Geniophobia- Fear of chins.
Genophobia- Fear of sex.
Genuphobia- Fear of knees.
Gephyrophobia or Gephydrophobia or Gephysrophobia- Fear of crossing bridges.
Germanophobia- Fear of Germany or German culture.
Gerascophobia- Fear of growing old.
Gerontophobia- Fear of old people or of growing old.
Geumaphobia or Geumophobia- Fear of taste.
Glossophobia- Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
Gnosiophobia- Fear of knowledge.
Graphophobia- Fear of writing or handwriting.
Gymnophobia- Fear of nudity.
Gynephobia or Gynophobia- Fear of women.
Hadephobia- Fear of hell.
Hagiophobia- Fear of saints or holy things.
Hamartophobia- Fear of sinning.
Haphephobia or Haptephobia- Fear of being touched.
Harpaxophobia- Fear of being robbed.
Hedonophobia- Fear of feeling pleasure.
Heliophobia- Fear of the sun.
Hellenologophobia- Fear of Greek terms or complex scientific terminology.
Helminthophobia- Fear of being infested with worms.
Hemophobia or Hemaphobia or Hematophobia- Fear of blood.
Heresyphobia or Hereiophobia- Fear of challenges to official doctrine or of radical deviation.
Herpetophobia- Fear of reptiles or creepy, crawly things.
Heterophobia- Fear of the opposite sex. (Sexophobia)
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- Fear of the number 666.
Hierophobia- Fear of priests or sacred things.
Hippophobia- Fear of horses.
Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia- Fear of long words.
Hobophobia- Fear of bums or beggars.
Hodophobia- Fear of road travel.
Hormephobia- Fear of shock.
Homichlophobia- Fear of fog.
Homilophobia- Fear of sermons.
Hominophobia- Fear of men.
Homophobia- Fear of sameness, monotony or of homosexuality or of becoming homosexual.
Hoplophobia- Fear of firearms.
Hydrargyophobia- Fear of mercurial medicines.
Hydrophobia- Fear of water or of rabies.
Hydrophobophobia- Fear of rabies.
Hyelophobia or Hyalophobia- Fear of glass.
Hygrophobia- Fear of liquids, dampness, or moisture.
Hylephobia- Fear of materialism or the fear of epilepsy.
Hylophobia- Fear of forests.
Hypengyophobia or Hypegiaphobia- Fear of responsibility.
Hypnophobia- Fear of sleep or of being hypnotized.
Hypsiphobia- Fear of height.
Iatrophobia- Fear of going to the doctor or of doctors.
Ichthyophobia- Fear of fish.
Ideophobia- Fear of ideas.
Illyngophobia- Fear of vertigo or feeling dizzy when looking down.
Iophobia- Fear of poison.
Insectophobia - Fear of insects.
Isolophobia- Fear of solitude, being alone.
Isopterophobia- Fear of termites, insects that eat wood.
Ithyphallophobia- Fear of seeing, thinking about or having an erect penis.