A phobia is an uncontrollable and irrational fear of an object or a situation, such as a fear of flying, or heights, or insects, a social phobia (fear of meeting people, of going to school), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), or agoraphobia (fear of going outside, of being away from the security of the home, or of being alone).
Most people have some phobia (it is estimated that about 10 percent of the population suffer from one or more phobias) but manage to keep it controlled either by avoiding the stimulus or by suppressing their fears. Phobias are only serious when fear becomes disabling and begins to affect lifestyle to the extent that it has to be altered or normal situations avoided.
The causes of a phobia may be unknown or the result of an experience that has left a long-lasting impression. It can, however, be copied or adopted from parents, teachers, or carers, or very occasionally be the result of some organic disease, such as epilepsy or brain injury. Panic and anxiety are also the result of low blood sugar, and can be more common in people with borderline diabetes or a sensitivity to sugar. Phobias can also be the result of prolonged stress (which in itself can cause blood sugar levels to drop), anxiety, or panic. Anxious, nervy, or easily stressed people are more vulnerable than others to phobias.
Symptoms of a phobia include overt fear and feeling overwhelmed when confronted with the object of that fear. Physical symptoms include breathlessness, palpitations, sweating, nausea, giddiness, and trembling. A sufferer may go to extreme lengths to avoid a confrontation with the object of their fear.
Learning to Cope
There is some evidence that sufferers can help themselves, usually through graduated exposure. In the case of a serious phobia, people are unable even to think about it. The first step is being able to do so, and then taking it one step further by drawing pictures of the object of a phobia, looking at pictures in a magazine, perhaps watching them on television, and so on.
In the case of a situation phobia, like flying, it may be suggested that you go to the airport and watch airplanes taking off and landing. Then, on the next visit, you might go as far as the departure lounge (many airlines offer sessions for phobics and do not consider this unusual). On the third visit you might sit on an airplane, or try an electronically simulated flight. You will gradually learn to control your phobia.
Take one step at a time. Draw lists, keep diaries that provide a record of your progress. Even when you find you are progressing at a very slow rate - some sufferers complain of taking two steps back for every one step forward - there are changes in your situation and your acceptance of it, and a diary makes them obvious. The key to overcoming a phobia is harnessing the panic, and with practice it is possible to do so. Panic can be overwhelming, and it may appear uncontrollable, but in time you can learn to distance yourself from the feelings and learn how to turn them off. Many exposures to panic may be necessary to do so, but eventually it becomes clear that panic attacks do end and go away and that it is possible to master feelings about a phobic situation or object.
Psychotherapy Treatment may involve relaxation techniques and desensitization.
Homeopathy Treatment would be constitutional but specific remedies include: Borax and Sulfur for fear of heights; Lycopodium, Gelsemium, and Anarcardium for stagefright and fear of performing in public.
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