Fighting your phobia can be very fulfilling!

ClaustrophobicWritten by Mark Benson

My story is probably a common occurrence amongst those suffering from phobias and anxiety although at the time it was a very lonely place. I know exactly when my issues started, what started them and thankfully I now know how to keep them under control and in their box. So, what happened to me, how did I recover and what advice would I give to others?


Phobias creep up on you

As with many people, my phobia, a fear of enclosed spaces bringing on panic attacks, hit me after a particularly stressful time of my life. I’ve always been an outgoing person, happy-go-lucky and I will talk to anyone but once my phobia and panic attacks hit home, my life changed. There was a day when I was out shopping with my family that I could feel the tension building within me, the stress on my shoulders and the throbbing headache. I had this sudden urge to run home to my “safe haven” because of a fear of fear, nothing else, just a fear of fear.

Unfortunately, once I gave into my first panic attack and fear of enclosed spaces this led to a vicious circle that dragged me down for at least two years. I remember driving my car and feeling a panic attack come on, I remember shopping and I literally had to get home and also a terrible experience flying home from Spain when I thought I was going to die. This is a person who was very open and very chatty and someone who had since the first time they flew in a plane really enjoyed the experience. My panic attacks, my fear of enclosed spaces and increased anxiety eventually led to me leaving my employment and taking on professional therapy.


The fear of fear

Unless you have some kind of anxiety issues or phobias it is difficult to understand “the fear of fear” which many sufferers feel. You know there is something wrong, you know your body is on high alert and you know you have to do something to get out of the area, but what are you scared of?

My therapist was extremely helpful, extremely patient and gave me some simple breathing techniques which literally changed my life. He also helped me to address my “fear of fear” asking me what I was scared of when shopping in the supermarket? Was I worried about people talking to me? Did I think there was going to be some kind of accident? The truth is that I did not know what I was scared of but I needed to address this face on and take control. The breathing techniques really helped to calm me down and allowed me to take control – knowing it was physically impossible to take a panic attack when breathing in this manner helped me immensely.


Living with my phobia

In a perfect world I would like to tell those who have phobias and anxiety issues that one day they will totally disappear. For some people this may well be the case but I know that my phobias and my anxiety issues are always in the background. Just recently I was driving a relatively long car journey by myself and there were times when I could feel a panic attack just below the surface. However, thankfully I know the signs, I know what to do and I was very quickly able to stop any potential panic attack in its tracks.

When visiting my therapist some time ago one of the first things he ever said to me was that you will get better and the only problem was that my brain needed “rewiring”. During very stressful times of my life it seems that my way of thinking had taken a different path from my traditional reactions and it was simply a case of retraining my brain as it used to be. There are many people out there who don’t have access to a therapist, horrifyingly there are many people with nobody to talk to which is why I helped to create the phobia support forum – to assist those suffering and those helping sufferers. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I have been there and done it and while phobias and anxiety can take you to a very lonely place, you do not need to stay there!


Image credit: Rita M.

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  • Bob Brotchie

    Great work Mark! As so often is the case you have taken your ‘pains’ and not only learned from them but turned them into a gift that others may derive benefit from.
    As a therapist myself, I have observed the successes, and those who were not quite able to ‘let go’, so I do subscribe to the solid belief that phobia’s can be overcome; be that completely or partially. For some, you will know, it is about the ‘right’ therapist – and for others it may be about attachment and a fear of “if you remove that aspect from me, who will I be then?”.
    I’m so pleased you found the relaxation and breathing techniques useful also. I think once employed these are vital to maintain access to the ‘thinking’ brain, so more rational beliefs can be considered.
    Good luck and best wishes with the community you have created, and with your own journey.

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