Phobias root from our natural fear response. Our inbuilt safety net helps to protect us from danger. It aims to stop us jumping off a cliff or high building, to run away from what we perceive to be dangerous animals or threats. If we live near the top of a cliff or rock face, or in a block of flats, we need a level of fear to stop us falling or jumping off. If we live in a country where certain animals can seriously harm us, our fear of spiders, snakes, wolves or lions could save our life. If we live in a place where danger is right outside our front door (as we did thousands of years ago), we could be fearful of going out.
It is when a fear becomes more pronounced and gets in the way of our lives that it becomes a phobia. A phobia is described as an extreme, overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. It is also described as ‘irrational’, but phobias often come from what feels like a very rational experience (a bite from a dog, a sting from a wasp). However, they often come from another person’s experience which is transferred to us; ‘my mum/dad/sister/brother always screamed at spiders, so I do too’.
There are techniques for overcoming phobias which we can explore together.