Why ‘Harmless’ April Fools Pranks could create Phobias and Anxiety

April Fool’s Day this year takes place on Easter Sunday.

While many people see the day as a time for harmless fun, it’s important to bear in mind that a single ‘sensitising event’ could lead to lifelong anxiety, phobias and distress.  ‘Pranks’ could also be distressing for those already suffering.

Leading hypnotherapist and Phobia Guru warns that fear-based pranks are anything but funny for the 10 million Brits that have a phobia.

Excessive fear is more common than many realise – 21% of women and 11% of men have at least one phobia.  For phobia sufferers, rather than a day of fun, April Fool’s Day can be truly terrifying, as family and friends try to provoke them with what they see as harmless jokes based on the object of their fear.

Being the target of pranks based on what scares them most can lead sufferers to experience debilitating panic attacks. The most common phobia pranks are killer clown masks to those with coulrophobia, fake blood to those with hemophobia and spiders to those with arachnophobia.  For mild fears the shock may be funny, but for those with a genuine phobia, the results of these pranks are anything but funny.

Phobias are most commonly formed in childhood, so a person can suffer from them for years before seeking help. During this time, they may find themselves the victims of jokes or pranks, like Lisa whose huge fear of spiders stems from a childhood prank based on a then-mild fear of spiders.

Lisa explained she is now petrified by her fear, to the point of tears.  She explains:

“When I was about 7 my older brother collected 200 spiders in a jar and decided to put them in my bed. He thought it was funny to watch his sister be petrified. It was like the film arachnophobia. They were everywhere!”

While Lisa’s brother may have found this funny, the extent of this traumatic impacted Lisa into adulthood as the mild fear turned into a fully-fledged phobia.

Lisa’s phobia continued until she noticed it was being picked up by her young son, who was also developing a fear of spiders.  This motivated Lisa to get help.

Within a 4-hour spider phobia workshop, Lisa’s phobia was addressed and completely cured.

Lisa explained how the short workshop allowed her to conquer her fear:

“I could not be in a room with a spider. There was no way I thought that I could hold a spider – but I held a tarantula! I was so relaxed, I’d never been hypnotised but it was amazing!”

Phobias can lead to more anxiety and can develop into social anxieties and general anxiety disorder, so it is important to seek treatment.

Often, a short hypnosis session is enough to reverse the phobia, and works very quickly. Hypnosis can undo the link between the phobic object and the learned response, meaning people can overcome their fear without difficult or intensive therapy.

However, it’s often something that could have been avoided in the first place.

Harley Street Hypnotherapist and founder of Phobia Guru Adam Cox explains,

“Playing a prank based on someone’s fears may seem like just a bit of fun but the nature of a phobia is that they can be caused by a sensitising event. A prank which creates a highly emotive reaction can cause a lifelong phobia, since most phobics don’t realise that a phobia can be cured in just a few hours”.

Of course, not everyone can afford to engage a Harley Street therapist.

Adam says for this reason, he has created reduced cost workshops and free downloads to help as many people as he can,

“Not everyone can afford to work with me, but to help as many people as possible I host regular workshops at a reduced cost and have created a free download to help people with phobias whether they were caused by a prank or any other reason”.

Whilst Adam urges pranksters to be a little more empathic on April Fool’s Day, he firmly believes that there is a solution for the 10 million Brits with a phobia.  He says:

“Hypnotherapy could help thousands of people in the UK laugh this April Fool’s day, instead of living in fear.”