How One Session of Hypnotherapy Finally Ended this Woman’s Debilitating Fear of Spiders
Before she discovered the practice, she nearly suffered a heart attack every time she spotted a spider.
Like many phobias, Jamie Daniel’s fear of spiders began after a traumatic event. While she was sleeping, a jumping spider had made a nest in a fold of the sheer curtains in her bedroom. “When I woke up there were what seemed to be a billion baby spiders crawling all over me!” the Clearwater, Florida-based general surgeon says. Although the event happened when she was just 11 years old, Dr. Daniel developed a paralyzing fear of spiders that affected her for more than 30 years.
Some people may scoff at this kind of fear, but phobias are very real and come in many forms. “Anytime I saw a spider in the house I’d shriek and jump up on the furniture. I’d spray them with Aqua Net hair spray, and if that didn’t work, I’d use hair spray and a lighter like a flame torch,” Dr. Daniel says. But as with many phobias, fears, or bad habits like nail-biting, hypnotherapy ended up offering a solution.
Dr. Daniel’s way of getting rid of spiders may have been on the extreme side, but her arachnophobia was real. Seeing a spider would send her into a panic, making her palms sweat, raising her heart rate, and causing her to flee the room. “I couldn’t sleep if I knew there was a spider in the house,” she says. If she saw a spider crawling along the interior of her car or on the windshield, she would have to pull over. “My fear was so bad that I almost wrecked my car more than once.”
Hypnotherapy for arachnophobia?
Her fear was irrational, Dr. Daniel admits, and she lived her life trying to bury or overcome her fear of spiders on her own—with no success. In May 2016, she volunteered to be hypnotized on a daytime television news show by hypnotist Richard Barker. “I had always been skeptical of hypnosis and was not sure that I would be able to be hypnotized,” says Dr. Daniel, “But I have always been arachnophobic and it was causing a lot of anxiety, so I thought ‘what the heck,’ I’ll step out of my comfort zone.”
Barker performed a hypnotherapy session with Dr. Daniel as the cameras rolled. When she awoke from her session, she felt relaxed and calm. “I actually told the newscasters that I felt like I had been to a spa.” When a handler placed a tarantula in front of her, she didn’t flee—or reach for a lighter and a can of hairspray. She told Barker that she wasn’t worried. Dr. Daniel was able to handle the tarantula, letting it crawl across her hand. “Since the session, spiders no longer paralyze me—I see spiders at my house and I no longer get tachycardia or freak out,” says Dr. Daniel. “I don’t love them, but I can tolerate them.” As for hypnosis, it took just the one session to learn how to deal with her fear of spiders and she now considers herself a believer in the practice of hypnosis. “I learned that the brain is a powerful thing.”
- American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis: "Current issues in the treatment of specific phobia: recommendations for innovative applications of hypnosis"