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Overcoming Phobia


A specific phobia describes the persistent fear of an object or situation. Fear of spiders, wasps, birds, snakes, blood or things like needle phobia are quite common. The fear of something produces both a psychological and physical response, so you register the fear and also feel it in your body. Psychology explains phobias as essentially being the ‘over estimation of harm, together with the under estimation of your ability to cope’. What this means for somebody with a fear of spiders is that you will run through a particular loop or ritual.

  1. You will be overly vigilant for spiders. That bit of fluff on the carpet may well turn out to be a tarantula. Your focus is biased towards looking out for spiders.
  2. You will avoid moving boxes in the storage cupboard because spiders may live in there. You always put plugs in sinks to stop them coming up plugholes. This ‘safety’ behaviour, stops you from disproving that anxious predictions will come true by limiting your access to spiders. If you limit your access to spiders, you never get to find out that they will avoid coming near you and won’t get trapped in clothing. Staying away from spiders means that you won’t disconfirm the fact that spiders will bite or poison you.
  3. You will run all of this fear rehearsal in an attempt to reduce coming into contact with a spider. What actually happens is you rehearse and increase the fear.

What you can do

The 3 best ways to reduce are your fear are;

  1. Decrease your focus on spiders.

Remind yourself how rare it is to actually see a spider against how much time you spend looking for them.

  1. Reduce your ‘safety’ behaviour by testing predictions.

A psychologist will help you develop a hierarchy of situations around spiders. Starting with the easiest thing you work through each level to build your confidence. The first level may be just looking at pictures of spiders and the top level may be opening a jam jar with a spider in. The point is to break the task down and practice it until it becomes easy. This can only be done with a trained professional who will help you through the levels.

This is an example of a hierarchy.

spider hierarchy

  1. Address your faulty thinking.

When you really start to examine your thoughts around spiders, you will realise how flawed they are. Spiders will not try to attack you and will generally run away from you. Spiders will not get trapped in your clothing and bite you.

Get Help

Basic counselling, hypnosis, flooding techniques or anything other than CBT will not help a phobia. CBT delivered by somebody qualified to use it will quickly and effectively reduce the fear for you.


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