During my 16 years as a ‘rapid change’ therapist, I’ve helped hundreds of local people overcome fears, phobias and anxieties that risked ruining their lives.

I’ve also offered support with stuttering, nail-biting, thumb-sucking, neck-twitching, bed-wetting and other problems.

In my monthly column, I hope I might help you if something’s troubling you. Drop me a line at askhoward@rapidchange.works. Philippa did, about a childhood habit:

“I’ve fiddled with my hair all my life in times of stress. Now I’m doing it so much it’s breaking off! I really need to stop. Can you help?” – Philippa

It sounds like you’ve associated ‘fiddling with hair’ with coping with stress. Maybe a parent comforted you as a child, stroking your hair. Now, when you’re stressed, part of you says: “I don’t want Philippa feeling bad. What comforts her?”. You start fiddling. Find alternative comforts without fiddling that’ll fill your need.

“I know exactly what to do to lose weight – yet always end up eating foods that won’t help. Any advice?” – Amy

If I said: “Don’t think about your left earlobe”, you’d immediately focus on it. When someone constantly tries not to think about chocolate, crisps or junk, they increase their focus on them. And we get what we focus on! Focus instead on what you can eat, not what you shouldn’t.

“I’ve a severe fear of flying, tubes and any situation where I feel I can’t escape. Please help.” – Mark

Many people feel victims of “the anxiety”. Suddenly, “the anxiety” hits them. This is simply an illusion. Your physical response isn’t from “the flying”, “the tube” or the “not being able to escape”. It’s your thoughts about these things. Consider what you’ve been thinking to create your anxiety, and powerful changes may result.

“Please can you help my teenage son stop sucking his thumb?” – Jennifer

Most thumb-suckers report they find their thumb’s in their mouth already. Visualise what you’d see as you lift your hand to your mouth. Now imagine noticing this action before ‘the suck’. Mentally practising this helps you become more aware – before it’s too late.

* Borehamwood-based Howard Cooper is one of Britain’s leading ‘Rapid Change’ experts. Email Howard with your questions or a problem you'd like his advice on to feature in the column on askhoward@rapidchange.works