|Irish Independent Article by Conor Feehan 22nd October 2007|
|What do men, peanut butter, cotton wool, dolls and string have in common? The simple but unusual answer is that they are all phobia triggers.|
The list of items or situations that carry a fear factor with them is growing all the time, and it is now estimated that up to one in eight Irish people suffer from a phobia of some sort during their lives.
Most people with phobias find a way of adapting their lives in some way so that they are not exposed to their fear trigger. But if you are afraid of something seemingly as silly as bald people, computers, darkness or even words then your life will quickly become a misery unless you get some help.
You would think that anxiety related illnesses and conditions would increase during doom and gloom times of recession, and that prosperity would lessen the worries of the masses, but psychologists and psychiatrists treating such illnesses say the opposite is the case.
“Pressures on people can be much greater when they think they should be advancing with the tide. The numbers of people seeking help has increased rather than gone down in recent years,” says Allison Keating of the bWell clinic in Dublin’s Malahide. Allison has an MSc in Work and Organisational Psychology, a BA in Behavioural Science in Psychology and is a qualified master Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner. She sees many people who suffer from phobias both well known and bizarre.“People recognize that their phobias are irrational but they still lose the ability to cope despite that,” says Allison. “A phobia is defined as a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.” “Fear is a very debilitating, frustrating and upsetting feeling. You may feel embarrassed by how you are reacting and realise that it is irrational and it may be even more frustrating because in other areas of your life you are in control,” she adds.
A lot of people have normal fears and react in a normal way to them, afterall it was through these fears and responses that the human race evolved by avoiding danger and learning what was safe and what wasn’t.
But the difference with phobics is that their reaction to their fear is way above normal.
“People can get dizzy and panic, and sometimes experience nausea and breathlessness and even a sense of unreality,” Allison explains. “Often the person’s reaction is so strong that they actually fear their response just as much as the thing or situation they are afraid of – they fear losing control as much as they fear the cause of their phobia.” “This anticipatory anxiety, or ‘fear of the fear’ then compounds the phobia and it can really take over a person’s life,” she adds.
Treatment of phobias used to be based on desensitizing the client to their trigger, whereby in the presence of a psychologist they would first look at photographs or pictures of the thing or situation causing them difficulty.
Their exposure would be gradually increased to a point where they would confront their fear in stages, getting closer to it each time and learning to deal with it. “But sometimes even seeing a picture can trigger a massive reaction in clients, and now treatment is based more on psychology and Neuro-Linguistic Programming – or retraining your mind’s reactions to certain stimuli.
“The treatment for everyone is different, but if people come to seek help they are already half way to being cured because it means they are willing to confront their problem, and what I do is find out how their fear affects them and the words they use to describe it,” Allison explains.
“Then we can use positive psychology, NLP, or hypnosis to help them move beyond their fear, sometimes by using their competence and confidence in other areas of their life and focusing that on the area where they have difficulty.”
According to Allison Keating phobias are more likely to affect women than men. “This could be due to it been from the anxiety disorder axis, and anxiety is more prevalent in women whereas chronic hostility and anger is more prevalent in men,” she explains. “Both have their own correlations to health difficulties. For men it is heart diseases and for women stress, panic and anxiety related complications.”
Prof Alex Gardner, from the British Psychological Society, believes there is evidence to suggest that the more bizarre phobias, including Barophobia (fear of gravity), Keraunothnetophobia (fear of the fall of man-made satellites) and, the ultimate phobia, Phobophobia — fear of fears, are often rooted in a specific event in childhood.
“If you take a phobia about buttons, it might be because a person was told in childhood that if they didn't do up their buttons they would be indecent, or maybe they were shouted at when they looked in granny's button box,” he said. The important message is that your fear might seem like a silly of embarrassing one to you, but if it affects your life you can seek help.
There are people who suffer from Androphobia - or a fear of men; Arachibutyrophobia – a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth; Linonophobia - fear of string; and Pediophobia – the fear of dolls.
Coulrophobia is an abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns, and Allison Keating says it is a more common fear than most realise. “Maybe it is what lies behind the mask or make-up that makes people fearful, or the idea that a person could appear to be one thing but be different underneath,” she says.
People who want to find out the name for their own fear can consult different websites to do so, but some should exercise caution while doing so. As an example, a person with a fear of big words might be sent right over the edge when they find out they are suffering from a condition called Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia.
Panel – Ray Shah. You Can’t Wrap Him Up In Cotton Wool !
DJ and former Big Brother contestant Ray Shah is comfortable in elevators, perfectly at home speaking in public, and is not fazed by heights – but show him some cotton wool and you are likely to have a situation on your hands.
For as long as he can remember the Dubliner has had a fear of the innocuous absorbent and cleansing material that most have absolutely no problem with it at all. “I can’t place where exactly it all began, and I can’t think of one incident that triggered this fear, but I just cannot touch cotton wool or have anyone touch me with it,” Ray explains. “I know it might sound daft, and I know that this is an irrational fear because cotton wool is not going to harm me, but I just get this awful tingling feeling when I’m near the stuff. I can’t go near it actually.”
Asked what specifically it is about cotton wool that makes him quiver, Ray goes quiet and has to compose himself at the thoughts of explaining it. “It’s the feel of it, and the way it makes that kind of squeaking sound as it is being pulled apart, and the sensation of it,” says Ray. “It is definitely the feel of it, the touch sensation, that affects me most. It’s funny that cotton buds don’t affect me, because they feel different, but loose cotton wool or cotton wool balls freak me.”
Ray’s work often brings him into situations where he does television appearances and has to go to the make-up department first. Does his cotton wool phobia affect him there?
“Thankfully there are other products they can use now like sponges and things, and they can use things like baby wipes to take make-up off, but sometimes I see them using the cotton wool on other people and I get that feeling again. Ray says he gets some slagging from his mates about his unusual phobia. “If we are away on holidays and they can’t get me out of bed they just throw in some cotton wool and I’m out like a shot,” he explains.
|if you have any fears and phobias |
that we can help you with
|Call us today 01-845 60 70|