Fairfield County Hypnosis, LLC


CAUSES OF PHOBIAS


A phobia may have established such a firm hold on your life that it seems impossible to unlock, or even understand. However, regardless of the specific stimulus that produced the fear—whether it be dogs, thunderstorms, cancer, the naked body, fire, death, or being touched by another person—the majority of phobias are generated from one of the following five causes:

PRODUCT OF SEVERE STRESS

Stress can be repressed for such a long time or to such a degree that is surfaces in another form, that of irrational fear. You may be experiencing a great amount of stress in relation to a specific thing, place, or situation, but that stress may materialize as a phobia about some other thing, place, or situation. For example, Brent developed a fear of crossing a particular bridge in town. As a junior attorney in a large law firm, Brent experienced a great degree of “invisible” pressure at work, and often felt victimized in personal confrontations with the firm’s senior partners. The office of the law firm was located across the dreaded bridge. By developing an abnormal fear of the bridge, Brent avoided acknowledging the real cause of severe stress, his job.

Brent transferred stress from one area of life to another, which resulted in what could be called “displaced” phobias. Often in this type of stress-based fear the person selects something that can be easily avoided as the object of the phobia, rather than fearing a true stimulus that is difficult or impossible to avoid. Thus a nine-year-old girl may fear bicycling which can be avoided, when the true object of her fear is her grandfather, who cannot be avoided.


PRODUCT OF A SERIES OF EXPERIENCES OCCURRING OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS, WHICH HAVE BUILT UP INTO AN EXCESSIVE ANXIETY

Many fears related to your own performance or to being in certain social situations can cause you to build up a fear of phobic proportions. You may think of this cause as an accumulation of distressing events that perpetuate and increase a state of dread.

Carl’s worst fear involved playing sports. When he was eight years old and tried to skate, he immediately fell, skinning his face. When he was ten, an older boy taunted him throughout a neighborhood baseball game. When he was a freshman in high school, the track coach told him he needed to build up his muscles. He was instructed to run laps while the other members of the team were competing with one another in a trial meet. By the time Carl was a sophomore, he was terrified of failure, dreaded physical education of any sort, and became nauseated when he had to perform in from of others.

This type of personal history, which includes a series of negative experiences that reinforce each other, can culminate in a phobia that may transfer or radiate to other areas of life.


PRODUCT OF A FEAR OF FEAR

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself” is more than a piece of rhetoric. If you have a fear of panic, of fear itself, it is a very real phobia. Your fear can be associated with anything and everything because you believe that as you go over a certain threshold of stress in the presence of a certain stimulus, you will panic. By anticipating panic, you raise your stress level and the fear of fear turns into a destructive cycle. You avoid so many situations in your effort not to be afraid that your life becomes very limited. You may be afraid to go downtown, afraid to talk to certain people, afraid to have a job, afraid of traveling afraid of parenting. Nothing is exempt from your fear, and your activities become increasingly restricted as the fear radiates into all facets of your life.


TRANSMISSION TO YOU BY ANOTHER PERSON

This cause of phobias is probably the easiest to understand, because it is imposed on you by an outside force. For example, if you continually see your father react with horror to thunderstorms, you are likely to react the same way. In this case, you have “caught” the fear from someone who serves as a role model for you.

Anyone with whom you are in close contact—a friend, neighbor, or even a stranger—can transmit a fear.


RESULT OF A SEVERE PAST TRAUMA

A painful emotional experience from the past can produce an unreasonable fear of that same situation, object, person, or place that originally caused the fear. The trauma can be either conscious or subconscious; that is, you may be aware of the original cause of the fear, or you may have successfully buried the trauma and have no conscious recollection of it. In many cases, the trauma that caused the phobia is repressed.

Paul, a sales representative for an electronics firm, suffered from claustrophobia, a common but abnormal fear of enclosed or narrow places. For thirty years he had been afraid of being inside of elevators, trains, airplanes, and cars or of having to climb enclosed staircases. He was unable to take a show unless someone else was present in the same room. Through therapy, he was able to recall an incident from his childhood when a babysitter punished him by locking him in his bedroom closet. In the dark, he imagined that he shared the closet with evil monsters who were whispering, planning their vicious attack on him. As an adult, Paul carried that original fear whenever he was spatially confined in any way.

All past traumas, however, do not emerge from childhood. You may have a past trauma that has developed as a result of your divorce seven years ago, the birth of your first child last year, tour mother’s death a decade ago, or your move to a different city last Christmas. The common characteristic for all traumas is the same. It is an event, incident, or period of time that cannot be consciously recalled without provoking alarm, extreme anxiety, or panic.

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