Anxiety, Fears & Phobias
Fear is part of our survival instinct; it sets our body and mind in motion in preparation for a perceived threat. It’s hard wired into the sub conscious and is one of our oldest emotions; sometimes generated without any conscious awareness. We feel uneasy, yet don't know why. It makes us jump when something moves on the ground or touches us, makes us blink when something is coming towards our eyes. We respond due to sensory input driving us into action.
Fear makes you focus. There’s a moment of awareness, with our unconscious telling us something isn't right, and as we sense "something" we freeze. This freezing may stop predators from seeing us it also gives us a chance to evaluate the situation and if it is OK we continue - returning to what we were doing.
When in danger, the full flight mode signal is sent from the mind to the body; muscles become stronger and the heart beats faster, pupils dilate so we can see better as we think about our escape.
Then there is the moment of panic, when some people are overwhelmed with feelings with no direction or purpose, scared without knowing what to do or where to go. Heart beating faster, muscles stronger but unable to use our mind to plan a course of action.
Fear is all about chemicals, epinephrine and norepinephrine; epinephrine (adrenaline) is secreted by the adrenal glands. These chemicals are released in moments of fear to prepare us for the fight or flight response; and changes occur to improve chances of survival. As well as increased strength an increase in oxygen increases sensory acuity whilst non-survival process like digestion are put on hold.
Fears and phobias are extreme anxieties. As we go through life we learn a great many things by experience, things we are not even aware of. An unconscious learning, fear is one of these experiences and is a demonstration of how quickly we learn an automatic response.
From one experience the mind can generalize and attach fear. Then the flight or fight response kicks in. Your imagination is far more powerful than conscious will and the area of the brain that you use to imagine something is the same area that is used when experiencing things. Which is why your nervous system can’t tell the difference between a real or vividly imagined experience.
For an event to be coded as traumatic its said that four conditions need to be met. First it needs to be a emotional event; second, have a meaning for the individual; third, the chemicals need to be in place and fourth the experience is perceived as inescapable. If these are present it is possible that the brain will categorize the event as traumatic.
And yet there could be 2 people at the same event and one will be traumatized whilst the other will not. How can this happen?
Life is full of traumatic moments, in order for an event to be traumatizing it must produce an emotional response. Meaning is attached to the event, and whereby one person may code something as traumatic another may not. A good example of this is those who are afraid of riding on roller coasters, they produce the four conditions in their mind and they know its scary and dangerous; whereas someone who loves roller coasters will have all the same conditions in place yet they love the thrill of the ride.
When afraid we panic, a panic attack is a sudden attack of terror usually accompanied by a pounding heart, feeling week, faint or dizzy. During these attacks people may also feel flushed or cold possibly becoming short of breath; some people experience chest pain and feel they are going to die.
People have looked for ways in which to help people overcome their fears and phobias for many many years. We have tried many different approaches from flooding (a rather extreme way of feeling the fear and doing it any way), desensitization, Hypnosis, NLP, CBT, EMDR, TFT (or EFT a version of TFT) to name but a few.
The majority of my clients need help overcoming fears and anxieties, from the OCD who has numerous rituals to help them cope with their anxieties, to the bulimic who uses food to cope with theirs, to the business man or woman who needs help making a presentation and the people who just want to be able to get on a plane.