A landscape gardener who was almost forced to give up his career due to a crippling fear of worms has been cured by a hypnotist.
Andy Morris, 34, would suffer panic attacks and break out into a cold sweat whenever he encountered a worm on his spade while working outdoors.
He said he would leap into the air "like a jack-in-the-box" if he spotted the wiggly critters and became obsessed with checking the weather in case it was going to rain.
The self-employed landscaper decided to seek professional help after he was forced to walk away from one job and started to turn down any digging or soil-based work.
Fearing for his livelihood, Andy turned to a hypnotherapist in a desperate bid to overcome his debilitating phobia - which is known as scoleciphobia.
Andy, who lives in Coventry, believes it all began as a young child when he encountered a dead squirrel crawling with maggots.
When he was aged six, he was also chased by a friend who dropped a worm down the back of his shirt - sparking a fear which would last another 28 years.
He said: “It was horrible, I still remember it. I thought they were on me I couldn’t shake off the feeling that they were crawling on my skin.
“Worms and maggots became the same in my head, all terrible, all too much like dead things.
“I know, although it seems funny at first, this was actually a serious problem for me. As a landscaper, a fear of worms isn’t ideal, to say the least.
“I love nature, gardens and landscaping, I’m not worried about mucking in and getting stuck in as I like the graft and love to see the results.
“When the opportunity came my way to set-up in the landscaping game, I’d put my fear of worms to the back of my mind.
“I assumed it had gone away. I’d avoided worms for years, which is easier than you’d think.
“When I was asked to work with soil, digging out and things like that, I’d basically take too long on the job.
“This is because I’d be checking each spade full for worms. I’d leap out of the way like a jack-in-the-box each time I encountered one.
“Imagine that in a nice fertile piece of ground. I’d start avoiding soil-based work altogether, even turning it down.
“This can’t be good business practice for anyone in my line of work. Then came the weather apps.
“I’d check and double-check that rain wasn’t forecast because we all know worms love a bit of rain.
“My actions didn’t go unnoticed as my workmates nicknamed me ‘One Drop Andy’, because it only took one drop of rain for me not want to work outside.
“It was all because of the worms. The final straw came when I was on a job and I simply couldn’t stay any longer with the worms all around me.
“I walked off the job. I felt like I had no control over my actions, I needed to get away from them. I knew I needed professional help right then.”
Andy visited self-help guru Russell Hemmings, who used cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy, to help him overcome his lifelong fear.
Andy, who has run GMS Home and Garden for the past three years, added: “I searched for ‘unusual fears and phobias’ and I found Russell online.
"He stood out head and shoulders above the others. I saw what he’d done for others, so I made the call.
"What was brilliant was there wasn’t a hint of belittlement or humour involved.
“Even though my fear could seem funny to some, it was just listening and professional problem solving from him from the off. We hit it off from the start.
“I was incredibly sceptical about hypnotherapy, but needn’t have been, it was brilliant.
“I had an initial session online and then I travelled to see Russell for session two and had three sessions altogether.”
Self-help guru and author Russell, 60, said: “Andy's was one of the worst cases I had seen is this particular area.
“Excuse the pun, but I needed to dig deeper with him.
“His fear was stopping him from doing the work he loves. I couldn't accept that. So, we needed to solve it.
“He had two memories that I retrieved when he was a child.
“One of them being traumatised by after someone dug a worm up, cut it in half and chased him with it.
“The other one that he recalled came out in hypnosis was a dead squirrel full of wriggling worms or maggots.
“It moved as if it was alive and he remembers dreaming about it as a child.
“I used a regression technique to clear out any old memories.
"It's rather like looking into a photo album, there are certain pictures that have memories are attached to them.
“Sometimes the brain locks in that past trauma. Every time you think of that memory, you get those feelings back.
“It is about moving the feelings around the memories and then put in a calm stimulus.
"In this case, it was worms, so don't go into fight or flight or flight response.
“His heart was racing, suddenly he would burst into a sweat and just want to run away from them. He was getting panic attacks.
“It was just about using hypnosis to calm him down when he was around worms."
For more information on treating anxiety and food disorders visit: www.russellhemmings.co.uk