What Are You Afraid of: Amy

What Are You Afraid of: Amy


Amy writes:

Dear Dr. Phil,

I have a very strange phobia. I cannot bear to touch cotton balls or yarn. I have been this way since I was little, and I have no idea why. My friends think it's funny and like to tease me by

chasing me around with yarn. It freaks me out. If I open a bottle of pills with cotton at the top, I have someone else remove it for me. I cannot get manicures or pedicures. I can't go down the aisle in stores where the cotton is.

I'm afraid to get over my fear because I don't want to have to touch cotton, and if I had to jump out of a burning building into cotton, it would be a tough call. Why do I have this strange phobia, and how do I get rid of it? Dr. Phil, can you please help me?


Dr. Phil tells Amy, "The truth is, we oftentimes have anxieties. They're kind of free-floating anxieties, and we will attach them to almost anything for any reason. And somehow or another, it just gets fortuitously linked to something else, and that becomes a symbol, a summary term for the anxiety that we feel, and then we actually get some comfort in that. We've tied it to something, so instead of just saying,

'I'm just kind of freaking out inside and I don't know why,' you can say, 'It's that damn cotton ball. It's that cotton ball. We need to get rid of all the cotton in the world. If we were polyester people, I'd be fine.' So this is learned. There is not a gene for cotton ball fear. You learned it, and you can unlearn it. You can learn to lie in a big bed of cotton and be totally relaxed, I promise you. But what you have to do is number one, want to, and number two, you have to go through the steps of desensitizing yourself to the irrational problem. And I'll help you do that if you want to do it."

"All right," says Amy.

"And then you'll come in here with a big ol' cotton sweater on!" predicts Dr. Phil.