A phobia specialist shares his 3 top tips to overcome any fear from spiders to public speaking

Phobias are irrational fears of benign substances, according to Christopher Paul Jones, a London-based phobia specialist. These fears trigger the amyggdala, a part of the brain that processes emotions like fear or motivation, causing the fight, flight, or freeze response. This response is useful in dangerous situations but can be problematic when applied to non-threatening objects or situations.

Jones’ clinic treats various phobias, including fears of water, heights, germs, needles, and even the fear of failure. Phobias develop through a conditioned response, similar to Pavlov’s dogs experiment, where the brain associates a harmless object or situation with danger.

Jones offers tips to overcome phobias in his book “Face Your Fears.” One method is to reframe the object of fear in a different, less threatening light, such as imagining a spider as small, black and white or on roller skates. Another technique is to change the inner dialogue associated with the fear, making it seem sillier and less realistic.

In the moment, self-comforting techniques can help manage fear. For example, giving oneself a hug can release oxytocin and other chemicals that help relax the body. Jones also suggests creating an artificial Pavlovian response conditioning by associating happy memories with a unique action, such as squeezing one’s fist, and then using that action to recall the happy memories when facing a fear.

Overall, phobias can be managed and overcome by challenging the fear through reframing, changing the inner dialogue, and using self-comforting techniques. By disrupting the old pattern, it is possible to recondition the brain and reduce the emotional intensity of the fear.

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