Are you frightened of snakes or spiders? Alternatively are you terrified of public speaking or even such mundane household items as cotton wool? If so, you are not alone as it is estimated that 12 per cent of the adult population suffer from a phobic response at some time in their lives. In fact there are something like 2,000 named phobias.


Phobias can be copied from our parents or others. They can develop in situations where we have previously experienced acute anxiety – a classic example would be a driver unable to get behind the wheel again after being involved in a car crash. However, their origins can also be mysterious such as someone who has a phobic response to wasps despite having never been stung.

While there is evidence that we are more predisposed to have phobic responses to hazards that our distant ancestors might have encountered (snakes, spiders etc), we can develop irrational fears about a wide range of things or situations. A horror of buttons or a terror of being alone are two examples.


Phobias can develop in situations where we were previously in control. One of the most common phobias I encounter in the consulting room is fear of flying (aerophobia), where people may have developed an anxiety where there was none before. After all, we all tend to fly more these days, whether it be to that business meeting in Brussels, honeymooning in Barbados or a lads’ weekend in Dublin.

Irrational fears can have a devastating effect on our lives, making us unable to live our lives properly. Alternatively they can be simply a hindrance or embarrassment, like the father unable to speak at their daughter’s wedding.


Phobias can exist on their own or be part of a complex web of fear, anxiety, depression or compulsive disorders in our lives. For some sufferers, dealing with the phobia may simply require a few sessions whereas for others it will be part of a longer programme of treatment.

The advantage of hypnotherapy is that it deals with the subconscious, where the phobic reaction resides, helping the person to regain control and re-training their subconscious reactions so that the old responses are exchanged for new, more desirable ways of acting.