Thursday


Fear runs in the family



It is thought this is due to parents being more open about their phobias at home something 46 per cent of them admitted in the survey by chocolate biscuit maker Rocky.

How I beat my fear of butterflies
When Tina Crawford was making plans for her wedding, there was one overriding fear. She was terrified that her big day would be ruined by a butterfly or moth fluttering into the church as she walked down the aisle. If that happened she knew that within a few seconds she'd be frozen to the spot, begin hyperventilating and could faint.

More than two million Britons suffer from phobias and although often trivialised or ridiculed, they can dominate lives. Celebrities suffer from them too. Recently Kylie Minogue revealed her own bizarre phobia. The singer is terrified of coat hangers, she hates the sight and sound of them and has even designed a special wardrobe to display her outfits.

In Tina's case, the 38-year-old was compelled to arrange her wedding in the depths of winter when she knew the chances of an encounter with a moth or butterfly were negligible. "People don't appreciate how a phobia can disable you in so many ways," says Tina, a former television researcher from Croydon, south London, who is now a full-time mum to Toby, two. "I kept the windows shut in summer and was frightened to go out of the house.

"Even the thought of a butterfly or a picture of one in a book could be enough to make me sick. We even arranged holidays to cold places where there was less chance of coming across them." Her phobia began when she was a little girl for no apparent reason. "No one took it seriously then," says Tina. "At school some girls put a dead butterfly in my locker."

Rather than growing out of it, her terror of the insects got worse. "By my mid-20s I realised this was a phobia."

A phobia is an intense fear that appears irrational to others and interferes with your life. We still don't know the exact causes but it seems that they are the result of a combination of genetics, environmental triggers and learned behaviour. Now being taken more seriously, there is increasing research to find new treatments including one study in Japan to develop a drug which may be able to switch off the part of the brain involved in driving phobias.

Tina tried various treatments for her phobia, including regression therapy, hypnotherapy and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which is a form of acupuncture that involves tapping on pressure points on the body. At the same time the patient is encouraged to talk about the cause of fear which is thought to relieve its intensity. "I tried everything but nothing worked," says Tina. "I became so desperate that I tried to get over it on my own by looking up pictures on the Internet of the biggest moth in the world. I thought that if I could cope with that I could deal with anything. It made me sick.

"At work I remember running out of the room and sitting sobbing on the stairs just because a butterfly came in through the window. Once, when my flatmates were away, my boyfriend had to drive across London in the middle of the night to get a moth out of my bedroom."

When Tina and her husband of 10 years, David, 38, decided to start a family she again sought help, this time trying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is the most proven treatment for phobias. "There was no way I could have a child and be afraid to go out into the garden or to the park in summer," explains Tina.

"At first the therapist didn't even mention moths and butterflies but talked about lots of other things. It was just like a normal conversation rather than a treatment. "We talked about my childhood and the therapist established that I'd been anxious about my parents arguing. My sister also had a fear of moths and I had copied her but it could have been anything that triggered it.

"We moved on to speak about what it was about moths and butterflies I didn't like. Even the patterns on their wings used to frighten me. "To this day I still don't know exactly how the sessions helped but there was obviously something that pushed the magic button."

As the sessions continued through 2006, Tina wasn't aware of being cured but one day a moth landed on her kitchen floor and didn't cause the usual terror. Since then she's been able to cope with the insects and no longer has to plan her life around the moth and butterfly seasons.

"I'll never be a lover of moths and butterflies or want to handle them, but now I can leave the windows open without worrying."

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