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Case Study: Fear of Fruits

 

26 year old female studying to be in healthcare has a fear of eating fruit.

Presenting Problem

Amanda* came into my office stating that she would like to overcome her fear of fruits. Upon further discussing the presenting problem Amanda had stated that she knew the nutritional benefits that fruit provided, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t bring herself to try them.  Amanda has always been a relatively healthy eater, conscious of what she puts into her body, and exercises on a regular basis. In fact, Amanda had recently done a half marathon. Having lived with this strong dislike of fruit, Amanda finally came to the rationalization that she wanted to change that. Her goals in regards to dealing with this issue were as follows:

  • Be able to try fruit without the anticipation of disliking it
  • Being able to try a fruit that her friends say was the best fruit they have ever had
  • To have pride and bragging rights that she tried something new
  • To be able to make an unbiased opinion on whether she liked fruit based on her experience

Background

When Amanda was a baby, her mother had brought her on an airplane after having fed her fruit. While on the plane, Amanda had an extreme case of diarrhea that her mother attributed to the fruit she had just fed her. From that moment forward, Amanda’s mother decided that fruit wasn’t something that settled well in her stomach and never fed her that food.

As Amanda grew up she also made a subconscious association that fruit would cause a negative reaction in her body, despite never having had a bite of fruit. Thereby, resulting in her inability to eat fruit. Later in life she developed an urge to want to try fruit. And even though her friends would tell her that they were eating the best apple they had ever had that they had picked while in an apple orchard, Amanda would get the apple inches from her mouth and not be able to take a bite. Despite her logic, willpower, and reasoning she could not break this fear.

Why this has occurred

From the moment we are born, we begin learning by process of association. These associations, whether positive or negative, become stored in our subconscious mind as “knowns.” These knowns help us react in daily life, and can instinctually drive our behaviors. When Amanda’s mother made the decision to not feed her fruit again, she began the process of creating the association that fruit causes an adverse reaction in the body. While Amanda had never actually experienced the adverse reaction, it was already planted in her subconscious mind as a known. This association became stronger and stronger the more she declined trying to eat fruit. As Amanda became older, she had a realization that she no longer wanted to carry with her this fear. She wanted to be able to decide for herself if she like fruit or not. However, when your subconscious mind (which harbors all our known associations) accounts for nearly 90% of our mind, her conscious mind (which is our logic, reasoning, willpower) couldn’t win over a lifetime of not eating fruit. With this misalignment between Amanda’s conscious and subconscious, her strong drive to change, and having set goals and an understanding of the benefits fruits could be in her life, hypnosis became an option for helping her create these changes.

Method of treatment

When discussing the treatment of a case like Amanda’s, its important to differentiate the fears and phobias. Fears occur when there has been a traumatic even such as being bitten by a dog. Phobias occur when nothing directly associated with the fearful reaction has occurred to spur such a reaction. Generally, people who state they have a fear of flying have never been in a plane crash. Therefore, this fear is in fact a phobia of flying.

In order to help Amanda, it was important to determine which fruit she felt was the most offensive and which was the least. She stated that the idea of eating an orange was unbearable because it was juicy and sticky, while the idea of an apple seemed ok.

Step one in this process was to find out what the end result of our session would be, and what motivating factors were behind it.

End Goal: be able to eat a piece of fruit without fear or anxiety.

Motivating factors:

  • Being able to try a fruit that her friends say was the best fruit they have ever had
  • To have pride and bragging rights that she tried something new
  • To be able to make an unbiased opinion on whether she liked fruit based on first had experience
  • Adding new snack opinions to her life

Having set up the end results, working toward them would be a process of systematic desensitization to her fear, as well as, creating a new association towards fruit in her subconscious.  I asked Amanda, in an ideal situation, “if you woke up tomorrow morning not having a fear of eating an apple (since this was her least offensive fruit) how would you go about eating it?”

Amanda stated the following (however, it should be noted at this point she was skeptical this could even happen):

  1. Peel the apple
  2. Slice it into pieces
  3. Dip the apple into a little caramel
  4. Try the apple
  5. If she didn’t like it, she would simply be pleased she tried it and move on with her day
  6. If she liked it she, would have another bite
  7. Each subsequent bite would have less caramel, until it was just the apple she was tasting
  8. Later she would be able to tell her friends she tried an apple with a new sense of pride, even if it was something she chose not to eat again.

After putting Amanda into hypnosis, we systematically had her visualize the process described above. At any point that she exhibited an abreaction or resistance, we would bring her back to the state of relaxation moving past any residual fears or resistance she may have had. While the goal was not to have Amanda love fruit, simply having her indifferent to the experience of trying it was important. The choice to like or dislike fruit was up to her.

After the first bite with the caramel, Amanda was asked if she would like to have another bite or if she was satisfied with having tried the apple, but had made the unbiased decision she didn’t like it. Amanda took more and more bites, each time lessening the amount of caramel on the apple till there was none.

Feeling pleased with her ability to visualize this happening we were able to create a new association in the subconscious mind. This was further enforced through visualizations of brag to her friends that she had broken a life-long pattern. That now she can partake in “the best apple” her friends had ever had.

Outcome

Amanda went home that night and ate an apple just the way we had visualized in our session and has since been adding new fruits to her food choices.

 Monday 12pm-8pm
Tuesday 9am-6pm
Thursday: 12-pm-8pm
 

Mordn Sanctuary
12 W 27th Street –  9th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Between Broadway and 6th Avenue

 

212-675-9355
ajanelli@ThetaSpring.com