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9th December 2003: "Phobias - Fighting the Fear"

Why do some of us fear crowds or storms, while others are terrified of heights, spiders or even cotton wool? Phobias are perplexing, sometimes bizarre-sounding, but they can exact a heavy price, disrupting career paths and ruining social lives.

Vivid descriptions of phobias have existed for centuries but real progress in treatment is much more recent. Now insights into evolutionary science, brain imaging and genetics - among others - are increasing understanding and bringing fresh hope to those whose lives have been blighted.

Freelance medical journalist, Helen Saul, who lives in Oxford, researched the sometimes contradictory scientific evidence for her recent book, and will be speaking on phobias at the pre-Christmas Cafˇ Scientifique. She has never had a phobia.

By Ms Saul:

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