Phobias & Obsessions

Phobias and obsessional behaviours are a frequent presentation I see in my consulting room and are very often associated with clients who have high functioning occupations or media involvement either in front of or behind the camera. These clients come to see me because they are fully aware that their compulsions are irrational and make no logical sense, but by the very nature of the problem, they cannot help but persist with the behaviour, even though their sensible brain is opposed to it.

Everybody has little behavioural quirks; that’s what makes us unique and interesting. However, when these behaviours start to impact on our quality of life or affect our nearest and dearest, we need to reflect on what is really behind the actions and what we can do about it.

While there can of course be latent reasons where past experiences are manifesting in bizarre and undesirable ways, I find that in many cases the solution to the problem is much simpler and more readily addressed that one might think. Revealing the real catalyst is as much about exploring the history as it is about understanding the causes which are hidden in plain sight.

I hear quite often that previous therapists were themselves obsessed with solving a ‘back to the egg’ problem that doesn’t really exist. Not everyone has undesirable early experiences or has suffered from inappropriate advances. It is of course important to examine these possibilities but within reason, and within the context of what is presented. Not everyone is a ‘victim’ and being mindful of this, in my view, is paramount in resolving the real issues presented by the client.

It is gaining this balance between the detective work of teasing out suppressed or denied memories that may be underpinning the anxiety and the neurotic behaviour due to much more tangible circumstances. Serious addictions are clearly a different matter and require a more intense course of therapy.

Nevertheless, taking a pragmatic approach where appropriate, rather than a somewhat narrow-minded preconception, has proven to be an effective and successful solution to many of my client’s problems.

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Peter Finlay PhD MSc MBACP MIPI is a BACP Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor