Advanced psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist CLAIRE GASKIN sees clients in Essex and in London’s Harley Street. She is now bringing her expertise to the problems of our readers as our agony aunt. If you have a problem you’d like Claire’s advice with, email For more details on Claire’s work, visit

Dear Claire,

I have an unusual, but extreme phobia, that is really embarrassing and impacting on my life more and more.

For as long as I can remember I have been scared of feathers. I do know it stems from a fear of birds as well but as long as they are not right near me I can manage. Feathers are much worse.

On a day to day basis I manage to keep it under control but there have been several recent occasions where I have gone into a complete panic because I unexpectedly came to face to face with them.

This included a birthday party for a friend where one of the girls turned up in a fake feather boa.

I hid behind someone I had trouble breathing and calming down.

I also went to a handful of weddings this summer, with more on the horizon, where I had to make excuses to avoid sitting next to people wearing hats and fascinators, most of which have feathers of some kind on them.

It is OK with close family and friends but extremely embarrassing when I do not know many people. How can I break this fear and get on with my life?

Claire says,

Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder and are characterised by an irrational fear of a situation or object.

The source is often a learned response from a family member during childhood, or associated with a traumatic experience.

Encountering the object of your phobia can trigger a full fight/flight response - a panic attack. The urge to run away and hide, and difficulty with breathing and calming down, are all symptoms.

Your GP will be able to refer you to a cognitive-behavioural therapist. This type of therapy works to reduce your fear through gradual exposure to the object or situation, helping you to learn new ways of thinking and behaving.

Instead of progressive desensitisation, you might prefer a therapist who works with the non-conscious mind, such as a BWRT practitioner or hypnotherapist. Try and

Whichever route you decide, rest assured that people do overcome even the most obscure and long-standing phobias. With the right help, you will be able to break this fear and get on with your life.