Arachnophobia reduced in new study

The way people develop fears and phobias has always been a mystery. But a new study gives new hints at how the brain may successfully process a phobia and how dwelling on the phobia is the last thing we should do.

Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, is quite a simple phobia to induce. Show a picture of a whopping big tarantula and boom, the heart rate soars, sweaty palms, the body responds with a phobic reaction.

The new study involved showing arachnophobics very short glimpses of pictures of spiders. By using MRI scans ( its always MRI scans nowadays- the toy of choice- I want one), the brain could be monitored on how it responded to these images. What the researches noted was that the brain reacted in quite a different way to the images if exposed for a short time compared to a longer period. Different parts of the brain were activated. The almost sub conscious glimpse seemed to inspire the brain to reduce its fearful reaction, as if, by not being fully conscious of the image, somehow it was learning to calm its response.

A fear or phobia is often practised, usually unwittingly by the sufferer. The fearful memory or image we have in our minds is often recreated, dredged up, and we end repeating the fear reaction for as many times that we conjure it up. It never gets better, in fact the fear is being embedded. The phobic pathway through the brain is being strengthened, the path is more defined each time it is being used.

The fleeting glimpse of the spider picture, as evidenced by this new study, is being recognised by the unconscious but the body isn’t been given enough time to react. A good long stare at the tarantula would give the phobic patient long enough to access the fear. But the short glimpse gives the brain and body a new experience, an exposure to the trigger without the trigger response. And thus it learns not to be triggered, that the spider is not a threat.

As a hypnotherapist, my take on this is that the important part is not necessarily the brief exposure time but the fact that the body is not reacting. The brain is learning or indeed creating a new pathway, by staying calm through the process of exposure. The new useful pathway is being laid down due to a vital combination of events. Calmness combined with exposure.

So that’s the message today folks, you have heard it before.

Keep calm and carry on.

Andrew Cunningham contributes to the anxiety magazine site Modern Anxiety.


Virtual Reality, Virtigo and Hypnotherapy

Virtual reality is now being used in the treatment of Virtigo.

Contrary to popular belief, Virtigo, is not a fear of heights (acrophobia) but is an unsettling feeling associated with balance which can be triggered by any number of environments. In Hitchcock’s Vertigo the trigger for this swirling dizzy feeling was the climbing of a high staircase which is how Vertigo and a fear of heights became inaccurately linked.

The virtual reality headset is used to gently trigger Virtigo in the sufferer so that that the patient learns how to modify and reduce the reaction. Gentle exposure therapy in a secure environment has been a popular method for many years in psychotherapy. The body and brain becomes trained to reduce its reaction to a certain trigger but in the safety of the consulting room.

Hypnotherapists use the natural virtual reality headset we have in all of us, the imagination. The patient is encouraged to relax, usually to a deeper level than they would normally experience and then a gentle exposure to the trigger is introduced through the internal landscape. Combining a relaxed state with a ‘journey’ through the imagination is a simple and effective way to create calm responses to an otherwise unsettling memory or trigger environment.

Does virtual reality as a therapy tool mean the end of hypnotherapy?

Well, technology certainly is a useful tool to encourage someone to deal with an unpleasant or unsettling environment. Using a headset to treat a symptom can feel more like a game than therapy which, for the patient, is a plus. It has the added bonus of being introduced as the new cure which is administered by the white coat professional, a classic set up for an effective placebo response.

There are many that see hypnotherapy as a step into the unknown where the ‘power of the mind’ is still an off-putting prospect.

This is partly due to continuing scepticism at over-blown claims made by practitioners, thought control, mind control, think yourself rich etc. But also due to the old fears laid down by Freud and often dramatized by Hitchcock, that the subconscious is a scary, dark place that can explode at any moment.

How seeking too much reassurance can weaken you

I hope this brief blog piece on seeking reassurance might be of help to those suffering from worry and fear. 

There is a line that separates useful guidance and support on one hand and a destructive pattern of seeking to much reassurance on the other. When the line is blurred a person can seek more and more reassurance at the expense of building their own sense of strength in themselves, an independent spirit. 

An example of this is Health Anxiety. Getting clarification from the doctor about one’s health can be a life saving journey to the surgery and is an important part of ‘looking after one’s self’. However we can also seek (or feel the need) for diagnosis of every twinge that we get which leads to worry and fear. 

Another example is in relationships with our nearest and dearest. Sharing our concerns and worries with a loved one is one of the most rewarding aspects of human relations. However when it is taken to an extreme it can undermine our sense of self and lead to bitterness and arguments.

So how do we get the balance right? 

One answer is to accept that there is a limit to what another person (or organisation) can do for our peace of mind and that seeking reassurance is not always a healthy thing to do. Bitterness and anger might also be a sign that we are making excessive demands that will eventually undermine us. That is not to say that we should give up our ability to campaign against injustice however. 

Another answer might be to focus on the concept that the dreaded possibility that we are trying to avoid is actually something we can handle. The dreaded thing might be bad and uncomfortable but is something that can be dealt with. Being held to ransom by the thought “I cannot bear it” could haunt a person for years when the reality could be quite different. Most of the things we imagine will happen don’t happen and if they do who is to say how we might actually respond?

Social Anxiety Treated With Hypnotherapy In London

It’s not much fun if you have Social Anxiety and live in London. But help is on hand.

Hypnotherapy can help you by giving you the tools to be calm and relaxed.

The combination of CBT and Hypnotherapy has been proved to be very effective in treating Social Anxiety, so go and give it a try.

Do give me a call at my Harley St office or email with any questions.

Hypnotherapy In London Link

Can Hypnotherapy Really Stop Someone Smoking?

Well the answer is in the question. Why would I want to stop you smoking?

In other words Hypnotherapy supports and encourages and even inspires you to do something you want to do and if that is to stop smoking then with a bit of luck you might stop. But it’s a free country and so if you want to smoke…by my guest.

A hypnotherapist is not in the business of making you do something you don’t want to do.

If you want to stop smoking then the hypnotherapist fans the little flame  of your desire to quit and builds that desire to as high as you can possible go. But it is your flame and your choice.

Try stopping smoking with me in Harley St Central London.

Here is a link to my Hypnotherapy In London site.

How Can Hypnosis Help Me To Quit Smoking

Well the simple answer is that it doesn’t take a magic trick to stop smoking as millions have stopped by deciding to quit and sticking to that decision.

A Hypnosis session usually involves talking and hypnosis. Motivating you to stop is very important and so ‘getting your ahead’ around the idea that stopping smoking is good for you, that you can do it and that life will be fine without smoking is very important.

Smoking has hypnotised you into thinking that you need fags to feel good ,relax and generally deal with life. This is not true and you only think it because you have been hooked onto a drug that promises way more than it can deliver.

Hypnosis is not sleep. It’s more like a deep day dream where you are encouraged to think and feel about the positive things you do want in your life and seeks to ‘re -program’ your thinking. However this is not as wacky as it seems. See it as more of a clear out of the old and bringing in the new.

Pop into central London for a stop smoking  hypnotherapy session .

Try Stop Smoking With Me

Need Help To Stop Smoking In London?

I have been working as a hypnotherapist for 10 years now and have found that many people have successfully

stopped smoking using a mixture of hypnotherapy and talking.

It takes some effort usually but sometimes clients just put the whole smoking thing behind them and walk out of my office an ex-smoker…result.

If you are curious how hypnotherapy helps a person to stop smoking, give me a buzz or drop me a line. You are most welcome and you might just stop smoking.

Stop Smoking In London

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