Reporter: Jackie Quist

Everyone has fears and dislikes -- many of us are afraid of spiders and heights for instance, but there are many more whose irrational fears have turned to phobia about very irrational things. For instance there's coulrophobia or fear of clowns. To name a few more, there's pediophobia -- a fear of dolls; ichthyophobia, a fear of fish; arachibutyrophobia -- fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth; and even pogonophobia -- a fear of beards.

Ever since she can remember, Yvonne Stork has been terrified of birds. She suffers from ornithophobia and absolutely hates birds wings, claws, beaks –everything. Yvonne's terror has even affected her diet -- she won't eat chicken. Yvonne has now started therapy in a bid to overcome her fear, and that includes watching videos about birds. But there's one film she absolutely will not watch – Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" “I just kept thinking no I could never play one of those roles and now I look for places to hide where would I hide in the house if something like that happened so I think the downstairs toilet.”

“All people with a phobia understand how irrational their thinking and behaviour actually is, however, because many people have lived with their phobias for a long, long time, often they will forget the irrationality. They will just act automatically, so they will automatically avoid certain situations or they will automatically feel a panic attack coming on”, said Swinburne University's Professor Michael Kyrios, an expert on phobias.

“What happens with a phobia quite often is people become very scared of a situation but then that phobia will generalise to other similar kinds of situations. So for instance, we have had a particular woman that we saw who had a snake phobia and her phobia had generalises to the extent that she couldn't say words that started with the letter "s", Professor Kyrios said.

Others like 23 year old Daniel Frankel suffer from phobias you can't even see. Daniel is agorophobic, that is he's sacred of open spaces and for years was confined to his house. “Over the last 2 years, I've managed to get my boundaries to stretch 5 km”, Daniel said.

Deakin University's Professor Don Jeffries is helping both Daniel and Yvonne combat their phobias “Whether its a phobia of a spider, or its a phobia of birds, or its a phobia of feathers, buttons, you name it , if those phobias cause a significant amount of distress for the individual that will lead on to depression later in life”, Professor Jeffries said.

Professor Jeffries says a combination of medication and taking baby steps to face and cope with a phobia, can eventually lead to a cure. “People with fears and phobias can be treated and they can recover. Its control of their phobic problems rather than the phobic problems controlling them”, he said.

Further information:

Professor Don Jeffries, The Melbourne Clinic, 140 Church Street , Richmond

Tel: (03) 9420 1414