Updated: Tuesday, 31st March 2020 @ 7:34am

Phobias: MM discovers the many ways to banish that anxiety

Phobias: MM discovers the many ways to banish that anxiety

By Jessica Elliott

Anxiety manifests itself in many different ways. Sometimes it will make a person terrified of an inanimate object, sometimes those objects can even be ridiculous, every day, things that others wouldn't even give a second thought.

Surely the most commonly thought of phobias are spiders and snakes. What about balloons? A simple inflated balloon makes me feel sick to look at. When I see them bobbing around outside restaurants, at birthday parties or being handed to happy children I am filled with dread. Having such a reaction to an inanimate object is as baffling to me as it probably is to you.

This may be cute when you are eight years old but try getting to 22 and people are not quite so understanding. According to Anxiety UK there are roughly 13 per cent of adults who are seeking some sort of remedy for a phobia. So, I decided to explore what options there were for a person with globophobia (yes, there is a name for us!) to get rid of this fear.

The most common phobia according to Anxiety UK’s research is Acrophobia which is the fear of heights with 13 per cent of the general population suffering from this and seeking treatment. In my research I have come across phobias that are more unusual than mine such as Arachibutyrophobia - fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth, Peladophobia - fear of bald people or even the imaginatively titled Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia - fear of the number 666.

One way people have cured phobias is to expose yourself to the thing you fear. This is what happened to Daniel Watkins, 24, head guide of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, who had a phobia of thunder when he was a young boy. "I was terrified, I mean terrified, of thunder. I would hide under the table, shake and would not dare move for ages," he said. "I dreaded it raining at school in case there was thunder. Then one day it happened when I was outside with my family. My parents made me stay outside and face the fear and since then I have been fine about it."

Daniel's family used a kind of exposure therapy treatment on him and it worked. For me my phobia was too much to go and buy a packet of balloons, inflate them and try and pop them myself. Apart from the fact it is bloody difficult to blow them up I really could not bring myself to do it.

I decided to go a step further than exposure therapy and went to see a hypnotherapist. She first introduced me to a practice called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This method was created by Gary Craig, an American engineering graduate.

According to EFT there are pressure points throughout the body, the ones utilised by acupuncture, which can be effectively stimulated by tapping on them. The main ones (and the ones I was told to 'tap') are centered around the face and head whilst saying a phrase that would hopefully transform the anxiety into more positive feelings.

I spoke to a world renowned EFT 'Master', Tania Prince, who learned the technique from Gary Craig himself. Tania's mother suffered from panic attacks when Tania was little and her father was a hypnotherapist so it was a natural career choice, although she was first in a rock band. She now has a practice, Tania Prince Associates, in Greater Manchester and has had surprising results from EFT.

"It can sometimes reveal that the object you fear is not where the fear originally came from," she explained. "A woman came to me who was terribly afraid of snakes although she had never encountered one. Through our sessions we discovered that the cause of her phobia stemmed from being poorly as a child. She was in hospital wired up with tubes which she later in life linked to snakes.

Through EFT she was able to come to terms with that phobia and even went to a pet shop to see if she was frightened of a snake there, and she wasn’t." She also explained that you did not have to believe in EFT for it to work and has successfully treated sceptics.

However, my phobia did not miraculously vanish so the next stage was required; hypnotherapy. I had the idea that I would be made to stare at a swinging pendulum then put into a deep sleep but it was not like this at all.

The therapist will lead the person through a visualisation designed to deeply relax in the hope when questions are asked the subconscious will allow buried memories to surface because the conscious mind is not actively trying to think of any answers. It is an unusual feeling as you are conscious but in this deeply relaxed state, a bit like being in a light doze.

This is what happened to me and I remembered a certain time when the popping of a balloon affected me more than at any other point in my life. With this recalled memory the idea is that now I can begin to progress and move away from the anxiety a balloon would bring.

If you do not have time to invest in this kind of treatment then the iPhone has recently brought out a new app, made by Self Study Apps, that can cure phobias on the go such as spiders, flying and dentists (unfortunately they have not catered for globophobics yet).

The app is based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which trains the brain to no longer be afraid of images that inflict panic but to develop a feeling of safety and calmness using nice images and connects these images to make situations less frightening than before.

The plus point for NLP is it can be a 'quick fix' for phobias and is also favoured by Tania Prince. "Both NLP and EFT can be quick phobia cures and are much more effective than simply talking around the fear," she said.

After trying these different methods I cannot categorically say that I feel the phobia is completely gone but I can say it is less intense. Now I seem to have no problem touching them, but I have yet to be in the vicinity of one when it pops, however the Christmas party season is now upon us so let’s hope I can make it through another year!