What is a Phobia?
- Chris Harrison
- 21st August 2011 - Updated 11th July 2012
A phobia is usually defined as an irrational fear that causes the sufferer to make huge efforts to avoid the stimulus that causes the phobic reaction.
These two points are both important when deciding whether something is a phobia or not.
If you react strongly to someone waving a gun in your face then that is not really a phobia as it's not irrational to fear being shot. Feeling slightly uneasy around spiders isn't a phobia either - it's a fear. The phobic will move - quickly - to avoid their fear usually by leaving the vicinity by the nearest exit.
What causes Phobias?
Humans are terrific learners, but unfortunately with that ability comes limitations - sometimes we just learn too easily. To make our lives easier we generalize - otherwise we would have to learn an incredible amount just to get through the day. For instance, as a child you learnt how to open a door, and once you'd opened a couple of doors it was quite difficult to be caught out by a new door.
You didn't learn to open your bedroom door and then have to learn the bathroom door and then your parent's bedroom door. You learnt to open one door and then you knew 'doors'. You weren't confused by different colored doors or doors that had the handle on the opposite site. You were (and hopefully still are!) cleverer than that.
Well, unfortunately if you once had a traumatic experience with a snake, then you probably learnt to always react in that way to snakes even when there was no risk whatsoever. For instance, if someone dropped a snake on you, then that's a good way to induce a phobia that will probably re-occur whenever you see a snake. Or if you were holding something that may bite you and someone made a loud noise that could also create a phobia.
Now you're probably thinking that many phobias exist without an original traumatic experience and that is true - people don't usually drop snakes on each other! Unfortunately (in the case of phobias), people also have good imaginations and can imagine a traumatic experience due to the stress or the apprehension of a new experience and their brain starts computing scenarios and how to react to them. It's very easy when you see a spider on the carpet to imagine it running towards your bare feet and hey presto, you brain can generalize that into a full blown phobia easily.
The article What causes Phobias? covers this in more detail.
Does a phobia mean I'm a bit 'mad'?
Not in the least.
In fact, having a phobia shows that your brain is a well optimized learning machine. It just needs a bit of a tweak.
What are the available Phobia treatments?
Read the article Phobia Treatments - what are the available Treatments for Phobias for information on the choices available for curing your phobia.
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.