Women's Health Magazine interview with
Hypnotherapist Harry Cannon about Food Phobia

Harry was consulted and interviewed for this for this article in Women's Health Magazine, investigating the subject of 'Food Phobia'.

MANY PEOPLE HAVE PHOBIAS INVOLVING FOOD, BUT WHY? WE LOOK AT SOME COMMON EATING PHOBIAS, AND DISCOVER WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU'RE AFFECTED.

Imagine a bowl of semolina on a table. Beside it, picture a wad of glittering cash - five million pounds, in fact. Would you eat the semolina if you could have the money? For most of us the response would be a resounding yes, but for a small number of people the answer would be no. This, according to Hypno-Analyst Harry Cannon, is the response he needs to be sure his client has a food phobia. 'I have to quantify it because human beings have a great capacity to exaggerate', he says.

All Kinds Of Food

...Harry has seen phobias to all kinds of food, such as carrots, potatoes, celery, rice pudding or custard - anything, in fact. According to him, a phobia, or what he calls a 'phobic response', is a fear of something that totally outweighs the object itself. To most of us, a carrot is hardly the stuff of horror movies, but to a carrot-phobic, the merest hint that one is in the room may have them shaking, panicking and breaking out into a sweat.

...Ex-agoraphobic Sylvia Hadley is an example of this. For 25 years, she was unable to eat out. Even now she carries a crossword puzzle with her to distract her in a café, in what she calls a 'trap situation'. She says: 'The waiting is the crucial thing. Agoraphobics are scared of being out of control and eating out is a classic example of this. Once you've ordered a meal you can't go anywhere - you have to sit and wait.'

Sylvia's rehabilitation involved a cognitive behavioural technique where the person is exposed to the phobic situation in gradual systematic stages. Each week she visited a café with a friend, progressing from ordering a cup of tea, to having a cake, to eventually tucking into a light meal. She could then move on to a restaurant.

Bottled-Up Emotions

"Phobias are all to do with bottled-up emotion. The object of the phobia means nothing - it could be car tyres. All I am interested in is the emotion linked to it."

Such techniques can help many people to manage their fears, but according to Harry, they often fail to address the deeper issue the phobia represents. "Phobias are all to do with bottled-up emotion. The object of the phobia means nothing - it could be car tyres. All I am interested in is the emotion linked to it."

According to Harry, phobias are usually nothing to do with the object itself. 'A phobic response is normally due to a symbolic association. Many phobic's have an event they can name which they think triggered the fear but 99 per cent of these are erroneous.'

Harry recounts the incident of a client who was trying to get pregnant, but kept fainting. Her doctors recommended that she stop trying for a baby. After intensive analysis and hypnosis, it emerged that she had been traumatised when she was younger by her mother shouting at her for breaking a plate. Her mother was heavily pregnant at the time, and therefore the client had linked that traumatic experience with being pregnant. And exactly the same can happen with food - the client could have been traumatised when eating her dinner, for instance, and ended up with a phobia about baked beans.

Finding The Trigger

Harry works with his clients through analysis and hypnosis, helping them to gently unravel the associations. Often, there is a memory where the trigger is found, and then through reliving this experience, the client
releases it.

"now I am relaxed and at peace around semolina" - the person may start eating semolina again, but the psyche will substitute the semolina phobia with another fear and the client won't make the conscious link between the old phobia and the new one.'

Once you have dealt with the underlying association, the emotion is released and the client can see it for what it is. However, if you don't deal with the underlying issue and try to paste over it with suggestion therapy - such as, "now I am relaxed and at peace around semolina" - the person may start eating semolina again, but the psyche will substitute the semolina phobia with another fear and the client won't make the conscious link between the old phobia and the new one.'

Perhaps this explains why phobias tend to come in clusters. Eliminate one phobia and another may pop up in its place. A fear of semolina may spread to a fear of similar things, such as custard, or cream buns, until eventually it becomes a fear of all things even vaguely semolina/cream related.

Media and Clients

My Promise to You

"Whatever your problem, you can be sure that you will receive the best of attention and that I will respect totally your right to total confidentiality and privacy.

There is no reason why you need to put up with these problems, provided that you are prepared to devote some time and effort to your therapy. It is a chance to free yourself from the things which hold you back thereby helping you to create a happier and more positive future for yourself."

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