Can Hypnosis Really Get Rid of Phobias

We all have some sort of phobia… that is, an irrational fear that is beyond our control in most cases and can stop us in our tracks at a moments notice.
For me, my phobia is cockroaches. I’m a big man, and pretty fearless in regards to everything else, but when it comes to cockroaches and those big fat water bugs, it takes monumental effort and will power not to wet myself and run off screaming.
If I see one in my home, I will abandon the room and wait until it has gone on it’s way before returning.

As you can understand, being a 6 ft 200+ man of some physical health how this can be something of an embarrassment. So looking into ways to rid myself of this shameful fear, I am considering hypnosis. My question is, does hypnosis really work, and more importantly, does it work on such powerful psychological behavior such as a phobia? If so, I’m wondering why more people don’t flock to it to remove their fears?


  • Scared Whitless

Probably not for most people but Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a real and scientific approach for many people and among the most effective treatments of all for anxiety and irrational fears. There are probably some clinical practitioners in your area that specialize in it or you can just buy books and see what it is all about. CBT is often covered by medical insurance and has been one of the biggest successes in the non-drug, therapy area.

I know both practitioners and patients who swear by it, especially for things like phobias and addictions. However, there’s the old caveat that it all depends on how willing you are to have the treatment work. To me, that puts it in the category of faith healing and snake oil.

One practitioner who is a client of mine pointed me to a summary of scientific articles that discusses many studies (though none on phobias, unfortunately). Normally I don’t put much faith in WikiAnswers, and I haven’t checked the references, but it’s an impressive list:

I have a good friend who has a medical practice consisting solely of hypnosis, a lot of it for phobias. He’s done it for over 50 years and claims results. I’m going to go in for spiders when I get up the courage to look that stupid.

Not everyone has a true phobia but I know what you are talking about. I am also a larger and braver than average 36 year old male in good shape. I take flying lessons, I would jump out of a plane this afternoon if someone wanted me to, I have fought off two armed robbers with no effect on me, and I would be one of the main go-to people if your child was in a burning house and there was no one else around that can help. However, I am terrified of standing in place to the point where it causes problems. I have to work myself up to go to the grocery store because of the thought that I might have to stand in line. Thank god for those self-checkout lanes where I can do what I want otherwise I may never eat again. It sounds related to true claustrophobia but it isn’t a pure case for me. I can do lots of things where I am closed in with no problem at all but the combination of not being able to move much and having people watching me causes some serious mental effects. I am thinking about get some CBT myself for it.

I should add that my mother did CBT on herself when I was growing up. She had a phobia of snakes and would often wake up screaming from nightmares. She finally got a little grass snake as a pet which worked a little too well. She started adopting bigger and nastier snakes that no one else wanted until it got to the point where we almost always had one loose in the house someone including her favorite snake, Ricky, who was a 7 foot long nasty Rat Snake. He would pop up in closets and all over the place.

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone.

I have looked into CBT, especially such as Shagnasty suggested, but the idea and fear of coming in contact at ALL with a roach, regardless of the circumstances is so terrifying I am almost certain it would fail. Once I was cooking dinner for a friend, and was cutting up vegetables when something crawled on my hand. I looked over and it was one of those German cockroaches… and let me tell you, it took more monumental effort to not cut my arm off with the knife in my hand than I have ever had to use in my life. My reaction however was one of sheer terror, and in hindsight, it was extremely embarrassing. People dont seem to understand how a person can be afraid of a creature 1/10th of my size.

I just wonder how effective Hypnotism is because it seems a much more direct and easier approach than trying to pay someone thousands of dollars to help me overcome my phobia over the course of several months or years.

On the same subject, does anyone have any suggestions for reducing the number of roaches in an apartment? I am planning to move soon, and I’m hoping to prevent them from the very outset.


  • Hyena

You really think we all have a phobia? I can’t think of one.

IMHO the belief in hypnosis might cure you. might.

Yes, I believe everyone has at least one phobia or irrational fear.

It might be hard to identify, and I believe that is because different people react to their fear differently. Fear may make some people freeze, or scream, or be terrified, illiciting a “flight” response, while sometimes fear makes people lash out in anger and violence. I’m reminded of those stories of rookie cops in a tense frightened moment gunning down an innocent person reaching for his or her wallet. That is a fear reaction, and it can override your common sense, since fear essentially is a mechanism for self-preservation.

Maybe you are afraid of something silly and don’t realize it because you are able to face your fears better than others. For example, I don’t like spiders, and they can startle me, but I CAN stomp the life out of them.

Cockroaches on the other hand make me as skittish as a fluorescent-colored liberal deer in Dick Cheney’s backyard during hunting season.

I still think you should look into CBT because it is the most scientifically proven type of therapy for this but whatever works for you is the best choice. You can do exposure therapy yourself or with a sympathetic friend or family member. Could you stand to be next to the smallest cockroach in a sealed jar? If not, what about one in a jar across the room for a few seconds? That is all it is really about. You just gain bravery through gradual exposure increasing it a little more each trial just so that it makes you just a little uncomfortable but not truly terrified each time.

That reminds me of the Far-Side cartoon which shows a guy being suspended from a building in a dark box filled with snakes to help him get over his three worst phobias at once. It doesn’t have to be that severe by any stretch of the imagination.

Well it’s definitely worth looking into.
I’ve had this fear all my life and I’m at the point that it’s starting to adversely effect what I do, so I want to conquer it.

Everyone seems to really believe CBT can and does work, scientifically, and as a scientist myself (a Biologist) I’m willing to test it’s effectiveness first hand.

Thanks for all the suggestions, hopefully CBT isnt too expensive.

Man, this thread is providing me some unintentional amusement. I’m used to seeing the CBT acronym from porn sites, where it stands for c**k-and-ball-torture. (and something that was burned into my brain very early as something to avoid looking at). I suppose it could be some sort of therapy, but probably not quite what you had in mind.

I am skeptical too. If it worked so well we’d see it used for treating mental illness. A phobia is just a form of anxiety and anxiety is treated with a variety of methods, none being hypnosis.

That said, you can use techniques like hypnosis, meditation, relaxation, etc if you want to go the DIY route. Depending on the severity of the phobia a little deep breathing, relaxation and slow exposure to the phobia over time could produce results.

I’m with you. I told a friend I was now going to CBT sessions. She said that she could have done that for me for free. I said she wasn’t qualified. She was livid. She began to list all her floggers and other gear. I laughed and explained that by CBT I meant cognitive behavioral therapy.

Back To The OP

Not everybody has a phobia. A phobia is more than an irrational fear. It a truly severe fear so extreme it causes disruption in daily functioning. For example, if Shagnasty could no longer go shopping because of his fear that would qualify. For some examples of phobias, watch a few episodes of Monk. In one episode (exceedingly minor spoiler) Monk is busy having an anxiety attack due to a phobia of heights. He is too overcome with terror to move or even open his eyes. All he can do is clutch the ladder and mumble to himself. While Monk is doing this, a killer slowly and calmly escapes. That’s a phobia!

If OTOH, you want claim that everybody has a fear of something, I’d agree with you.

Hypnosis is bullshit in that it’s not some wonder-procedure that can totally make you feel or do completely different. All it really is, is a deep nap and some suggestions you may remember afterward. A parlor trick where it only “works” because the participants were willing to cooperate with the suggestions in the first place. Hypnosis isn’t going to help any more than yoga is going to spiritually enlighten you (but it will help you relax the same way yoga helps you stretch).

I agree that CBT is the path to getting help. Flooding (forcing yourself to directly confront your fear) is quite helpful in that it shows you your phobia is irrational. If you want to do some CBT-like exercises without seeing a doctor first, I’d highly recommend this book as it helped me out with a phobia of my own, as well as show you that irrational phobias like yours are exactly that (there are tons of anecdotes in the book that make you feel like your problem is relatively minor).

I’m not certain. I was talking to a professor at the local University about psychological fears and he seems pretty convinced that everyone has a phobia, it’s just that we aren’t always put in situations where we recognize them. If you have a phobia of squirrels, whats the likelihood of encountering a squirrel on a daily basis or at all for some people? Fear and phobias arent that different, as you can still muster up the courage do react to your phobia. If you have acrophobia, it’s a fear of heights. That doesn’t mean everyone with a “fear of heights” seizes up and is completely helpless. Just like my irrational fear of roaches is deep and strong, but every so often I CAN muster up the strength to kill one, usually when I realize I have little to no choice if I want to regain the room. And if i get the drop on him. However if he comes at me, it takes herculean effort not to leap out the window, glass and all.

He did not feel that Hypnosis was effective in the case of phobias although he did opine that hypnosis does work to a degree. It just isn’t a fix all for everyone. He stated that the advice offered here was correct, that CBT would most likely cure me of my phobia, but that in some cases it has been known to make things worse (i’m not sure how that works out but it sounds like a scenario where I end up making the nightly news).

Either way, it’s time I manned up and got some real help.
Unfortunately, it looks like cost might be an issue, but can we really say it’s not worth any price for peace of mind?

I thought we were fighting ignorance with facts here instead of knee-jerk responses? Because hypnosis has been studied by doctors and is used in surgery instead of anesthesia.

I don’t know how good hypnosis works on phobias/ strong fears, but with smoking, the success rate is at least 30%.

Whoah. How do you measure /determine which method helps to reach spiritual enlightment? And how do you conclude that Yoga which has been practiced by Indians for centuries, doesn’t work for that purpose? Wow, really.

You said you’re about 6 feet tall, right?

The cockroaches you’re running into are over 7 inches long? I guess you could always make some Thai Food with them… :eek:

Well, there’s your problem, right there! You have 20+ pound cockroaches? I’d be scared shitless, too. Either you’re hallucinating, in which case you have bigger problems than fear of cockroaches, or you’re living in a parallel universe with monster cockroaches, in which case I doubt that much of our advice will be applicable.

But seriously, the largest cockroaches in the world, the Australian giant burrowing cockroach, are 9 cm and weigh about 30 grams, roughly 1/3000th your weight. I couldn’t find a weight for ordinary household cockroaches, but they’re about 1/3rd the length of those big ones. If the weight is as the cube of the length, they probably weigh about a gram, i.e., 1/91,000th of your weight.

I don’t know if your 1/10th figure was a typo, or if you just picked a number at random, or if your phobia is leading you to drastically overestimate the object of your fear. But maybe it will help you to remember that you are about 100,000 times bigger than a cockroach.

On preview: Damn you, Daffyd, for getting in first!

LOL fair enough, I think my phobia makes them seem much bigger AND I was so terrified that I made a typo as well as some other less savory things in my pants.

But I do feel that way sometimes. I know that nothing on heaven or earth (or in between) would save that roach’s life if I put my monstrously powerful boot down upon it, but I swear for all the world, I might as well be preparing to do mortal kombat with a prehistoric giant Hyena bare-handed for all the fear they insight. What’s worse, is they seem to KNOW I fear them and instead of scurrying for the illusion of safety under a cabinet corner or something rational like that, they almost ALWAYS double back towards me or fly at me in some sort of dive bomb attack pattern. I’m not sure if this is an instinctual natural defense method in which they catch their predators off guard by flying at them, or if they are perceptive to the massive waves of fear I must be radiating. At any rate, I’m more inclined to let the little buggers go than to gird my loins for battle, which I understand sounds particularly ridiculous for anyone describing himself as a “Man”.

Regardless, I think I have my answer, which is CBT, although the thought of wussing out for months on end in front of a group of other people is not exactly an entertaining thought.
But, if that is what I must do, that is what I must do.

Maybe it will work and I’ll get so much courage that I’ll be offering to kill everyone’s cockroaches like some sort of cockroach knight, travelling the land on a quest to rid the world of every last one of them out of vengeance and hate… with a sniper rifle. From two miles away. During the day. In a beekeepers outfit.

Good luck, Hyena. If you want to steel yourself for some group sessions, you might try giving yourself some little doses on your own terms.

I don’t think it’s phobia-level debilitating, but I am terrified of spiders. A couple of years ago, I moved to the country, where they seem to be everywhere, and I was tired of being afraid all the time. So, when I had some down time, I’d look at scary spider images on the internet. Once those heebie-jeebies died down a bit, I went to the pet store and looked in the tarantula cages, until I could make myself touch the outside of the glass cages, near where the spiders were. Some pet stores have giant cockroaches, so this might be a good approach for you, too! I’m not quite to the point where I’m ready to hold one, but I’m no longer in danger of running out of my own skeleton every time I see one!