What causes Phobias?


When it comes to what causes phobias, one of the most interesting points is that very few people are aware of how they got their phobia in the first place.

My own view is that there are four ways of 'contracting' a phobia. These are:

  • Sudden Fear
  • Copied Response
  • Self Taught
  • Generalization

Taking these one by one:

Sudden Fear

Phobias invariably contain a moving element - even if the phobia is of something inanimate.

For instance a person who has a phobia of needles is not usually afraid of the pain of the injection - no one likes the pain. Once you dig down into how they generate the fear you are likely to uncover an internal representation of the needle breaking, or slipping - something quick and scary.

The best way to give someone a phobia (and please don't try this at home), is to make them jump with a sudden movement and a nice loud noise (loud noises are one of the two build in fears we have). So to give someone a phobia of worms shout at them and throw a handful of worms in their face.

So any event that follows this kind of pattern that happens 'accidentally' can generate a phobia. This is probably why so many people have phobias of spiders, moths, birds, or mice.

Now I know that many people will have read my description above and said to themselves 'but I'm afraid of X and I've never even seen one.'

Firstly bear in mind that television is a really good way to bring any number of such anxious moments into your life, and secondly that there are three more ways that phobias can be generated.

Copied Response

It's amazing how many people have the same fears and phobias as their parents or siblings. Unless you all live in the same house that has a problem with falling spiders, this doesn't appear to make any sense.

But remember that we're all learning machines. If I see my mother respond with fear to a picture of a spider, then I can do that, same as I can learn to wave when my dad goes to work. I can also build an image in my mind of why that response is appropriate, especially if my mother explains that every time she sees a spider she thinks its going to jump into her hair. Wow, I'm sure you're beginning to do that yourself now, but don't.

People are talked into phobias all the time. Especially those people who like to dwell on things and keep running the scary thoughts through their heads over and over. Stop it!

Self Taught

This is similar to a copied response but where an individual's mind gets carried away. You could be standing at a zoo looking at a spider in a vivarium and start thinking about 'what if' - what if the glass broke, what if I put my hand through the lid, etc. Some people's minds love scaring them like this and if you dwell on it ...


Imagine going to a therapist to help you with a fear of needles, or whatever. The therapist gets you to think of needles and then think of something relaxing like being on the beach. Next, the therapist tries to get you to feel the same relaxation while thinking of needles but all that happens is you become apprehensive of beaches, and before you know it you've had ten sessions and you're scared of everything.

This isn't as far fetched as it sounds. Many people go to a therapist with a single phobia and leave with multiple phobias. Poor use of anchoring is a good way to generate this kind of problem.

How do you cure a Phobia?

I have covered curing phobias in several other articles on PlanetNLP. Checkout the related links at the end of this article for information on curing a phobia. Personally, I recommend the Fast Phobia Cure as the most effective method, but it's worth reading the articles about using NLP for phobias before using it.

Are there any products you can buy for curing a Phobia?

There are a few specific products that I recommend for curing phobias. For a general phobia cure you can checkout Richard Bandler's Banishing Phobias CD or for cures for specific phobias checkout Paul McKenna's Overcome your Phobia recordings.


See also: