A phobia is an extreme form of fear or anxiety triggered by a particular situation (such as going outside) or object (such as spiders), even when there is no danger. For example, you may know that it is safe to be out on a balcony in a high-rise block, but feel terrified to go out on it or even enjoy the view from behind the windows inside the building. Likewise, you may know that a spider isn't poisonous or that it won’t bite you, but this still doesn't reduce your anxiety.

Many of us have fears about particular objects or situations, and this is perfectly normal. A fear becomes a phobia if it lasts for more than six months, and has a significant impact on how you live your day-to-day life - it stops you living my life, things that other people do without thought become huge ordeals for me.

What are the symptoms of a phobia?

The symptoms of a phobia involve experiencing intense fear and anxiety when faced with the situation or object that you are afraid of. If your phobia is severe, thinking about the object of your phobia can also trigger these symptoms.

Symptoms of a phobia include:
Physical symptoms

  • feeling unsteady, dizzy, lightheaded or faint
  • feeling like you are choking
  • a pounding heart, palpitations or accelerated heart rate
  • chest pain or tightness in the chest
  • sweating
  • hot or cold flushes
  • shortness of breath or a smothering sensation
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • numbness or tingling sensations
  • trembling or shaking

Other symptoms

  • feeling out of touch with reality or detached from your body
  • a fear of fainting
  • a fear of losing control
  • a fear of dying

If these symptoms are very intense, they could trigger a panic attack.

What causes phobias?

There doesn't seem to be one particular cause of phobias, but there are several factors that might play a role:

  • Particular incidents or traumas. For example, someone who experiences a lot of turbulence on a plane at a young age might later develop a phobia about flying.
  • Learned responses, picked up in early life. You might develop the same specific phobia as a parent or older sibling. Factors in the family environment, such as parents who are very worried or anxious, can have an effect on the way you cope with anxiety in later life.
  • Responses to panic or fear. If you have a strong reaction, or panic attack, in response to a particular situation or object, and you find this embarrassing or people around you react strongly, this can cause you to develop a more intense anxiety about being in that situation again.

Long-term stress can cause feelings of anxiety and depression, and reduce your ability to cope in particular situations. This can make you feel more fearful or anxious about being in those situations again, and over a long period, could lead to you developing a phobia. Hypnotherapy can typically eradicate many types of phobias as they are a result of learned behaviour. Sessions needed can be 3-5 and include rewind and relaxation techniques.