Phobia Creep - The Frequent Cause of Multiple Phobias
It is not unusual for people to suffer from more than one phobia. The phobias can be created individually or can creep to seemingly unrelated things. This can result in the creation of some strange phobias.
The Tangled Journey to a New Phobia
A client came to me claiming phobias of confined spaces, heights and fairground rides. She wanted to address all of her phobias. Let us call this client “Sally”. During her first session we addressed what she felt was her greatest fear – that of heights. Following our first session she was able to go many high places without fear but realised she could not go near escalators.
The Connecting Phobia Discovered
This fear of escalators was a lesser fear that Sally had not even recalled during our initial session. We might regard her fear of escalators as something “hidden” by her other fears. We discovered that escalators made the connection between her fear of heights, confined spaces and fairground rides.
Sally’s fear of heights had started when she fell from a wall and her fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia) when she became trapped inside a box (both childhood experiences).
On a visit to London in her mid teens Sally recalled being unable to descend an escalator on the London Underground because to do so would have resulted in her being “trapped” in an underground train. Her claustrophobia “crept” to escalators (phobias can develop that quickly).
Fear Transferred to Fairground Rides
Sally’s fear of fairground rides started when she was about 17 on a fairground Big Wheel. For some reason the ride had stopped while she was at the top for a longer period than expected. While stationary at the top she had panicked and she remembered being physically restrained from jumping from the ride (a greater fear had overcome her fear of heights).
Prior to this incident Sally had enjoyed fairgrounds rides. On this occasion, however, Sally had been hit by three phobias simultaneously. Firstly, Sally would have been aware at some level of her fear of heights. When the ride stopped she experienced being trapped (claustrophobia). Thirdly, her view down through the steel structure of the Big Wheel “reminded” her subconscious of an escalator. Her claustrophobia, fear of heights and fear of escalators added together and “crept” to the Big Wheel. Sally’s new phobia quickly became generalised to one of all fairground rides.
Phobia Creep Will Continue if Not Stopped
It is not necessary to discover the cause of a phobia but frequently in addressing them we get clues. Phobia creep is a continuing problem for some people which results, in extreme cases, of them becoming more and more imprisoned by their fears.
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