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Social Phobias and Social Anxiety – 
Fear of blushing, sweating, stammering/ stuttering, confrontation, meetings, social situations / small talk, criticism, rejection, public speaking. 
Fears related to acute anxiety or panic attacks – 
Fear of being or going insane, Fear of heart attack / physical illness through anxiety, choking or suffocating, vomiting, death, losing control, fainting or collapsing, Fear of not being able to escape to a safe place or person, Fear of loss of bowel control. 
Fear of Objects, Situations or Activities – 
Fear of flying, dogs, spiders, general anesthetic, claustrophobia ( fear of confined spaces ), fear of public transport, fear of driving, exams, dentist / dental surgery, being alone, heights, bridges, driving test, injections, fear of the dark. 
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a Phobia as an ‘ extreme or irrational fear of something….a dislike of a specified thing.’ 
Phobias are extremely common and are experienced by 11% of the population at some time in their lives. Some are very common for example the fear of spiders or flying or a fear of the dentist and some are less common for example fear of fainting or collapsing or fear of medication. 
The trigger for the phobia causes your body’s survival flight or fight response to be activated which causes various physiological reactions including some or all of the following : 
The Stress Response ( Fight or Flight ) : 
The body releases adrenalin as a direct response to perceived danger which causes muscles to tense however if the body then tenses up again as a response to the ‘felt’ tension then more adrenaline will be released causing even more tension – so tensing up because we have tensed up makes things much worse. The key is to not tense up or at least to understand what is going on and stop the cycle / to relax and let the tension subside. 
When adrenaline is released into the bloodstream it immediately affects the muscles of our heart making it to pump faster to get blood to the parts of the body that will help us ‘ fight or flight.’ 
The faster beating of your heart / hearing that pounding in your ear can make you fearful maybe because of the fear a stroke or heart attack which in turn can trigger the release of more adrenaline. 
Sometimes the chest muscles tighten and breathing is constricted because of the adrenaline – which causes more fear which releases more adrenalin. Uneven breathing upsets the balance required between carbon dioxide and oxygen gaseous exchange which can have obvious worrying effects for the individual who is now having trouble breathing properly. 
Hypnotherapy and Phobias: 
Once a person understands more fully the symptoms of their stress response then they are in a much better position to be less fearful. It is important to know that the body can only produce a certain amount of chemicals at any one time and once a person is able to regain control and relax, their body also relaxes. Once their body is relaxed the chemicals can dissipate and the person is able to respond much better to a given situation. When a person is stressed / fearful, they are much less able to manage their thoughts and behaviours then when they are calm. 
Hypnotherapy explores : 
management and understanding of the stress response and the creation and the removal of the fear – a person put the fear there in the first place and therefore it is possible that they can remove it. 
Reality v Imagination : 
The visualization process from the Apollo Space Programme was instituted during the 1980’s and 90’s into the Olympic training programme. It was called Visual Motor Rehearsal. When you visualize something the mind believes it is actually happening. Experimental work took several of the athletes and had them run their event only in their mind and then hooked them up to sophisticated bio feedback equipment. Incredibly the same muscles fired in the same sequence when they were running the race in their mind as when they were running on the track. How could this be ? Well, because the mind can’t distinguish whether you’re really doing it or whether it’s just practise. 
If you’ve been there in your mind you’ll go there in the body. 
And we all know that practise makes perfect. So what starts out as a small fear can over a period of time become a full blown phobic response or even lead to panic attacks and anxiety. 
Are you a Born Worrier ? 
For some people as well it’s not so much that they have practised the fear over and over in their mind but more that they are born worriers. Their intentions are well meant in that they believe that if they consider every worst case scenario then everything has been planned for and so they are ‘ready for anything.’ However often planning so many worst case scenarios when none of them may happen despite the good intentions may not be a very helpful way of managing your life. 
Are you Intelligent ? Imaginative ? 
Very intelligent people often get caught in their own trap – they believe they can think their way out of an uncomfortable feeling or phobia and think constantly about it looking at it from every angle possible which often compounds the problem. Their own frustration at not being able to resolve the situation themselves also adds to the anxiety. They unwittingly create discomfort by constantly trying to avoid it. This is especially evident in people who have the capacity to become highly absorbed in their own imagination – the interesting thing here is that these people because of their active imagination are very good hypnotic subjects and therefore respond quickly and well to a treatment programme. 
Efficacy of Hypnotherapy for Phobias 
Hypnotherapy for phobias is very effective. In a discussion recently with a GP about his opinions and thoughts about hypnosis and hypnotherapy ( Dr G R Hudson – Senior Partner ) he said that he believed hypnotherapy to be especially effective with regards to phobias. He had seen good results with patients and commented that large organisations also seem to be acknowledging it – apparently Virgin offer hypnotherapy ( he presumed travellers would have to pay for the sessions ) to groups of people who are contemplating a long haul flight but who have a Fear of Flying. 
Systematic Desensitisation 
Hypnotherapy and deep relaxation allows systematic desensitisation from your fears. Using safe and controlled techniques you are able to imagine being in those situations that have in the past made you fearful and to rehearse them in your imagination. You are in complete control at all times and the process gently allows you to reframe your fears and build up new automatic responses which are more helpful to you. You will develop a normal rather than oversensitive response. 
The method of systematic desensitisation has a long history of effectiveness in clinical studies and combining this with hypnosis we can achieve positive, permanent results more rapidly. 
The Bigger Picture 
The treatment programme works with the whole ‘ bigger picture’ of your fear. I worked with a lady a few years ago who was terribly scared of flying. She said afterwards that one of the most important things that came out of the treatment was that she no longer felt guilty if she took a tablet to calm her nerves when she flew. Once she gave herself ‘ permission’ to take the tablet much of her fear went away. She now flies easily and frequently ‘sometimes taking a tablet and sometimes not.’ She was very pleased with herself indeed and a pleasure to work with ( for more information see her comment on my >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> testimonial page ). 


August 2nd 2011 
This is my blog about my decision to address my own fear of needles. I thought that it would be a valuable exercise for me as a therapist to find out what it is like to come to terms with a phobia and to deal with it. This is only my own personal experience and thoughts and I am writing it so that I can track my own progress over the next few months / year. I hope you find it interesting. 
For as long as I can remember I have had a fear of needles. Whilst I have never actually fainted at the sight of one, the thought of them and the then sight of one for an injection etc has made me feel that I was going to collapse or faint. I used take a sharp breath in just at the thought of an injection and used to feel dizzy. I made sure where possible that I was always first in the queue for an injection at school so that I did not have to watch the process over and over again until it was my turn. Which I believed made my symptoms worse combined with the usual school kid antics of people saying ‘ the needle got stuck in me, they had to do it twice, I jumped out of my skin and so on ……’ By the time I got to the front of the queue the fact that ‘ I may feel a little scratch ’ went completely unheard. My mind was already focussed on the needle handing out of my arm and all the other comments that I had heard as various friends passed me in the queue. I was by this time hot all over, rigid ( no, wiggling my toes will not help ! ) and needing to sit down quickly ( which was certainly not allowed – it takes too long and we have 30 kids to inoculate ) before I felt like I was going to keel over. 
August 20th 2011 
When I joined the course that I am attending at present one of the questions that was asked was what any of us hoped to achieve and I commented that I had a phobia that I had been working with myself and intended to test it as soon as possible by giving blood. This was my next challenge after the nurse drawing blood ‘ test.’ I know that even looking at a sign advertising the blood service used to make me feel sick and go cold and feel very strange indeed. After the birth of my son I had to have a blood transfusion that they said would take at least four hours to complete and I remember begging them and crying not to have it done and when infact I was having the transfusion I was in a pretty stressed state. The only thing that kept me ‘ hooked up’ and not running out of the hospital was that I had my baby next to me, a very stern practical nurse sitting outside my room and also the fact that I could not even bring myself look at the tube going into my arm so there was never any chance of touching it, never mind pulling it out. I sat there rigid and stressed for over four hours. It was not good at all. So for me to say that I intended to give blood was quite a challenge. 
We have a very amusing and good tutor on our course who has an instinct for your weak points and the ability to convince you that you really want to help yourself even if it means a little ‘ no pain, no gain’ routine. He offered me a ‘ fast phobia cure ’ for my phobia since whilst I had overcome my fear of needles and drawing blood, the thought of giving blood was still a bit of a wobble for me. I think it was because the process would take longer, it was something I had no experience of and was generally a ‘bigger commitment / experience’ in my mind. 
August 23rd 2011 
Two days before my blood donation. I was so excited which was fascinating – such a different response to the Fear I have had historically. I was also proud of myself. It became the focus of all my thoughts. However, I also woke up with what I suspected was a urine infection. I drank more water than is possible and plenty of cranberry juice but by the 24th I was at the Doctors who gave me antibiotics. I am not going to even say I was disappointed – I was nothing short of gutted. Not at the infection but that I may not be able to give blood. I asked the Doctor who said that as it was mild he didn’t see a problem with giving blood if I delayed starting the antibiotics however advised that I call the Blood people. Needless to say, they were very kind however they did not want my blood and worse than that because I was then going to be taking antibiotics they could not book me in to donate again until the middle of September – which I booked. 
I was fascinated by my response – I was so disappointed and felt at one point that I wanted to ‘stick a needle in my vein’ just to prove I could ( not something I would ever do or recommend ). I feel completely confident about giving blood and only recently found out that you can only donate every now and again – there was me thinking it would be a monthly thing ! 
So self – hypnosis and hypnotherapy using a ‘fast phobia cure’ has got me to this point. I’m very keen to give blood and monitor my response. 
September 14th 2011 
I am booked in to donate blood the last week in September and am very much looking forward to it. In fact I am excited about it. The new feeling that I have towards needles / blood / medical detritus is amazing. I could barely even look at the sign to donate blood before as it triggered my stress response. Now – I am frustrated by the wait. I so want to test my new perspective and until today it was all going well and I was heartily patting myself on the back. And it was having great spin offs to other phobic reactions like spiders which I suddenly became aware that I was not affected in the same way by them anymore. 
However... I saw John today ( my mentor ) and I was excitedly telling him about this and he – as always – listened patiently and quietly the way he always does until he was completely sure I had got all my enthusiasm out of my system, then he waited just a few seconds more, then opened his drawer and took out a needle and lighter ( to clean it ), drew his chair closer to mine and proceeded to talk and poke his own finger at the same time drawing blood. He said that it’s all very well feeling and believing that something is ‘ fixed ’ however it’s always a good idea to test it. Which is what I was going to do by giving blood however my reaction to him pricking his own finger went straight back to my original phobic response and there was no way at all that I could have done what he was doing. He did it twice ( show off ! ) and continued to poke around it whilst we were speaking amusing himself by my uncomfortable response. 
16th September 2011 
My cat sat on my lap last night and I let it squeeze its claws into the pads of my fingers which is something I did not used to be able to tolerate. It used to make me feel queezy and sick and make my toes curl. I just relaxed into the sensation with complete awareness. I made no effort to dissociate. And I was fine. It was as if time had slowed down because I was completely focussed on what I was doing. This morning I managed to pierce the pad of my right hand index finger – by accident – on a staple as I was separating two sheets of paper. My knee jerk reaction was surprise and pain and sickness since for a second it was still stuck into my finger and then instantly as my awareness kicked in I relaxed and breathed in and out and ‘enjoyed’ the experience of controlling my emotions. I was not aware of even talking myself through the calming process – moreover a belief kicked in. 
23rd September 2011 
I had a very powerful session today with John – my mentor -and was happy to work with him to complete the final piece of my jigsaw ie to prick my own finger. The work actually addressed other stuff in my life which was not surprising at all, I guess phobias develop from other things. They rarely ‘ stand alone. ‘ 
I am pleased to say that I came home afterwards and after about 10 minutes of internal dialogue and some external dialogue – I think the out loud talking is so important as it physically reinforces committment and boosts the effectiveness of any change work by adding different senses. I spoke ( heard myself ) affirming my change work, I spoke to myself internally, I rubbed and felt my fingers ( touch ) and I looked at ( sight ) where I was going to prick my finger and how I was going to do it. 
Cumulatively more effective than just thinking about it. So I pricked my finger by choice. And initially it did not bleed so I did it again immediately. I was exceptionally proud of myself and the entire process was fascinating. 
I realised that I had never rubbed a needle voluntarily over my finger pad and and never pricked my finger voluntarily so I had built up an entire phobia about something I had never done. mmmmm… And when I actually did it I did not suddenly want to go round pricking my finger ‘ because my phobia was fixed ‘ rather I had an awareness that I had over come my fear however it was still fine to not want to do it again. 
It was fine to not like or want to repeat the experience – however the phobia is now controlled and comfortable. So I’m ready to give blood now and am so looking forward to it – bring it on ! 
3rd October 2011 
I went to give blood last Thursday at the local community centre and I was actually very excited indeed. I have gone from not being able to look at the vinyl sign advertising the various donation sessions without feeling sick and uncomfortable to ‘ bring it on.’ When I had to re-book my session 6 weeks ago because of a urine infection I was so disappointed and have been fascinated by my complete change in point of view. I have worked hard on my phobia and finally being able to prick my own finger following a very powerful session with my mentor John Glanvill was the last piece in the jigsaw. He had challenged me to do this as he suggested that merely dissociating myself when they ‘ prick your finger ’ onto some beach somewhere was still avoiding a part of the issue. 
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