How Phobias Start

Jim Brackin

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Any persistent or irrational fear of an object, situation, or activity that you feel compelled to avoid could be classed as a phobia. We know that phobias can interfere with our ability to function, affecting our ability to work, socialize, and go about our normal daily routines. From experience we also know that people with phobias can be so overwhelmed by their fear that they avoid the specific objects or situations, lest they trigger those feelings of panic, dread, horror, or in some cases, even sheer morbid terror.

What causes the creation of a phobia?

In every case the creation of the phobia can be traced to a ‘Significant Emotional Event’ in which the person links the phobia trigger to the negative emotion. The phobia trigger could be an event, a situation or a specific object. The important thing is that it becomes associated and neurologically linked or ‘anchored’ to the emotion. This anchoring process is something that we humans use to remember important events. For example, you could hear a piece of music and instantly be transported back to a time, place or event in your life that was significant. This is a positive anchor at work, and we all have thousands of them stored in our unconscious minds. A phobia is simply an extreme version of an anchor linked to a negative emotion.

Anchors are easy to create. In a well quoted experiment, Martin Seligman an American psychologist associated a small electric shock to certain images. Only two to four shocks were enough to create a negative anchor or phobia to images of spiders or snakes, while a much larger series of shocks was needed to cause a neurological link to images of flowers. The key factors are the intensity of the experience, in this instance the pain of the shock and the number of repetitions needed to create the link.

In real life rather than in laboratory conditions it is much easier to create a phobia in just one significant emotional event. That’s because the brain learns very quickly in intense situations - you only have to touch a naked flame once to realise that it’s not something you wish to repeat.

How is a Phobia Cured?

Well the good news is that the ‘anchors’ that neurologically link that phobias to situations or events can be easily collapsed. There are a number of well proven ways of doing this some of which have been well publicised. The Phobia Free Therapy from the was publicly put to the test by the British national press a few years ago. The Phobia Free Therapy, a guide book that the client works though, was used to cure a 30 year old needle phobia in less than two hours. If you want to read the coverage for yourself it’s featured on the site. The advantage of this process is that it can be used without the need to see a therapist.

If however your preference is to visit someone then there are two well proven techniques to remove phobia. Firstly, Time Line Therapy is a technique that has very high success rate in dealing with phobia. It’s popular because the client does not have to relive any of their traumatic experiences before the anchors are disconnected. Secondly, the Fast Phobia Cure a technique developed by Richard Bandler, co-founder of NLP has proven it’s effectiveness over the last twenty years and is the basis of many phobia treatments.

The bottom line is that phobias can be created easily and removed just as easily – irrespective of how long or how intense the emotions associated with it. So why wait any longer to be phobia free, after all what have you got to lose, except that old fear.

Jim Brackin contributes tips, help, advice on popular psychology to variety of magazines like Cosmopolitan, Real, Spirit and Destiny and Women's Own. As the body language expert for Sky News (UK) he developed Personaliteye, a visually based personality profile test that provides free reports on relationships, work, friends and lifestyle.


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