What happens when we are scared?
We automatically trigger Fight or Flight responses, we’re ready to run away from the threatening situation. Our heart beats faster, our breathing is rapid, we sweat, blood is redirected to the muscles to give us the energy to escape Dopamine is triggered in the reward and pleasure centre of the brain which stimulates adrenaline- in other words; we’re pumped and ready for action!
Young children show real fear when they are faced with a new situation, they don’t understand if there is a real chance that they will be hurt or not. Adults will scream and shout but it’s quickly followed by laughter once they realise there’s no immediate danger, so it seems we learn from experience.
Some people avoid the stressful situation altogether because they really dislike the way it makes them feel, other people love it so much they seek more and more and risk their lives in the process. Throwing yourself off a cliff with a bit of elastic tied to your foot isn’t my idea of fun but hey, each to their own!
Phobias are an extreme form of fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation, like going outside, or an object, like a clown, even when there is no danger. My kids when they were young were scared of people in costumes, bit tricky when you’re in Disney Land and slightly embarrassing when they screamed to get away from Father Christmas!
The person who suffers from a phobia is not made to feel better by someone telling them that they will be OK; it is totally irrational and real to that person and no amount of comforting will help the situation.
Some phobias are really common, you might even have them yourself, heights, going on a plane, insects and claustrophobia are well known but there are thousands of phobias, some of which are a bit weird…
Nomophobia- this really is a modern day phobia and I know so many people who suffer with this one; it’s a fear of being without a mobile phone!
Arachibutyophobia is a phobia of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth!
Genuphobics have an irrational fear of…knees
It is fashionable to grow a big bushy beard at the moment so times are hard if you suffer from Pogonophobia, fear of beards!
Maybe we all suffer from Ponophobia, a phobia of work on a Monday morning but I think it’s otherwise known as Lazyitis on the rest of the week!
Spectrophobia, a fear of ghosts is not a great phobia to have at this time of the year!
How can we cure phobias?
The more we are exposed to something that scares us in theory, the brain gets used to it and it is desensitised and we no longer find it frightening. This is how Cognitive Behavioural Therapies work. Easijet have a course for flying phobics which is spent in a class room to educate the phobic person and familiarise them to planes. There is an active part to the course which involves actually taking off and landing. Through the whole flight the course leader is reassuring the participants and teaching them coping strategies.
I actually had a bit of help from my colleague Tom Pena who is a very high up in Sports Phychology. My spider phobia is well known. Before meeting Tom walking into a room at home was a bit like Inspector Clouseau and Kato, I’d stop, search the room for an eight legged monster and if it was clear I’d go in! Tom relaxed me into a meditative state and took me back to the point in my life when I became scared – I was chased as a kid and had a spider thrown at me. He then taught me some coping strategies which, I have to say have improved my phobia. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that they are revolting and given a choice I wouldn’t have one as a pet but, I can look at a tarantula in the zoo now when at one time I’d be stuck to the wall on the opposite side of the room! I need to go back and have another session, who knows, one day I might see one and say “Aw look, it’s so cute!” – yeah right…..
Some phobias do take over peoples’ lives to such an extent that they can’t leave the house, relationships break down and their life is completely affected. GP’s can refer to professionals who can help get peoples’ lives back on track. It’s a really hard thing to do and a massive achievement just to admit they have a problem but there is lots of evidence that treatment does work.
There’s one phobia that I definitely don’t have and that’s Graphopbia, a fear of writing or… do I ?
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