Man walking banana on lead prompts theories about peculiar anxiety treatment

A man snapped "casually taking a banana for a walk" on a lead captured the imagination of social media users, prompting theories about a peculiar anxiety treatment being behind the strange spectacle.

A photograph of an unknown man walking a banana in an unspecified location in England was posted last month, but it's not the first time the peculiar scene has made its way online.

Several photos and videos have popped up on Twitter and Reddit of men and woman trailing the fruit behind them on a string, as if it was a pet.

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In July 2017, a man in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire was recorded out for a walk with his banana. Originally shared on Snapchat by passerby Steven Helliwell, the footage is captioned "only in Huddersfield do people take a banana for a walk".

Meanwhile, two years later in Dublin, Ireland, a woman was recorded undertaking the same activity.

Alan Smith was the one who caught the footage, uploading it to Facebook with the caption: “They’re all out today mad c*** walking her banana.”

So why are so many people walking bananas? One Reddit user, reacting to a video of another woman doing the same thing, suggested that the activity could be some sort of anxiety treatment.

"I remember it being a weird form of therapy years ago," the person wrote.

According to psychologist Hui Bee Teh, the Redditor is correct. It is in fact a classic exercise of cognitive behavioural therapy.

"The idea is to do something and make people really look at you. In fact some people are often so self-conscious, being worried about what other people think about them, whether they look stupid, look anxious or too awkward etc etc," she said.

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Hui Bee said that her lecturer at the University of Sussex told her that it was a good way to deal with anxiety.

She continued: "With experiments of this sort you probably find out the reaction could be quite different from what you think.

"But even if it was what you think (that 'you look stupid', 'you look so anxious', 'you look like an idiot'). Those are just their thoughts! So what? It’s nothing catastrophic. Let them think what they want."

She even tried it herself in Croydon, London, receiving a variety of reactions. "So many people looked at us! Some people asked, some just stared, some tried to look covertly.

"We went into the McDonalds, and obviously people were looking. I saw a guy taking pictures of us," she added.

German psychologist and psychotherapist Benjamin Ließmann, who has written about the method, said: "The idea: fighting your own social inhibitions by intentionally doing something strange that draws the attention of others."

The method has also been described as "shame attacking," a term coined by psychologist Albert Ellis.

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