A phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little real danger. A phobia is a long lasting illness that can cause intense physical and psychological distress and can affect a person’s ability to function normally at work or in social settings. Phobias can be divided into specific phobias, social phobia and fear of open spaces, which is known as agoraphobia. Specific phobias are further divided into a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia); fear of animals (zoophobia); fear of heights (acrophobia); fear of flying (pterygophobia); fear of water (hydrophobia) and fear of surgery, injections, tunnels, bridges etc. Genetics, neurotransmitter dysfunction in the brain, and traumatic experiences appear to influence the development of phobias.
All phobias can be treated quite well with cognitive behavioral therapies. In addition, medicines may be required for social phobias and agoraphobia. Ayurvedic medicines can be used to treat depression, anxiety, palpitations and elevated blood pressure. Medicines like Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), Khurasani ova (Hyoscyamus niger) and Jayphal (Myristica fragrans) are used for their sedative effect. To treat depression, medicines like Vacha (Acorus calamus), Jyotishmati (Celastrus paniculata), Laxmi-Vilas-Ras and Shrung-Bhasma are used. The signs and symptoms of fear, such as an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, a pounding heart, and a shaking voice and limbs, can be treated using medicines like Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Mandukparni (Centella asiatica), Jatamansi, Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina), Saraswatarishta, Arjunarishta, Dashmoolarishta, Tankan (Purified borax) and Arjun (Terminalia arjuna).
Medicines like Makar-Dhwaj- Ras, Maha-Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Bruhat-Vat-Chintamani, Suvarna-Bhasma, Abhrak-Bhasma and Trivang-Bhasma are used in very minute doses along with the above-mentioned medicines, to bring about a faster therapeutic response and to help prevent a recurrence of symptoms. Ayurvedic Panchkarma procedures like ‘Shirodhara’ and ‘Shirobasti’ can act as effective tranquilizers to reduce anxiety and panic attacks. Another Panchkarma procedure known as ‘Nasya’ can be used to treat depression by using strong, stimulant, medicated nasal drops containing Vacha, Sunthi (Zinziber officinalis) and Pippali (Piper longum).
Since phobias usually develop at an early age, it is important for parents to talk openly about fears and to pursue positive approaches to fears and phobias, so as to help prevent their children from falling victims to these conditions. If phobias do develop, a direct or gradual confrontation is recommended instead of an avoidance of the object or situation.