What Scares You?
I commend you for your report on phobias [SCIENCE, April 2]. I have four of them--fear of bridges, heights, clowns and crickets. Your story adequately covered the topic and the feelings of those of us who have phobias, but I was disappointed by the large pictures of the clown, the chicken and the claustrophobic person. For those of us who fear clowns or chickens, the pictures made it very difficult to read your story. JESS MOLOUGHNEY Macon, Ga.
As someone who had acrophobia, I understand how a person can be afraid of things that most others don't find threatening. I beat my acrophobia by riding on roller coasters and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I confronted my fears. This may not work for everybody, and it took a long time to have the guts to do it. But I decided that I wasn't going to live my whole life with my phobia. To others with phobias, I say, Don't let such fears control you. You deserve better. ADRIAN M. GONZALEZ GUERRA Monterrey, Mexico
I had my first panic attack in 1959. Within weeks, I wouldn't leave the house, and I thought I was the only person in the world with this fear. It was 10 years before I heard the term agoraphobic, and another 10 before people started talking about panic attacks. God bless the researchers who have removed the stigma of this living hell and given sufferers their life back. With the help of new techniques and drug therapies, I went back to college, and have just received a B.A. in English. Next year, I will fly across the country to hold my grandchild in my arms. Thank you, TIME, for telling people that we need not lose 30 years of our life to fears. JUDITH A. WEBB Pacific Grove, Calif.
You can't have a panic attack and feel relaxed at the same time. A rapidly effective treatment is a one-minute hypnotic relaxation procedure taught by a therapist trained in clinical hypnosis. A person standing in line at a supermarket, about to be overcome by panic, can use this method in less time than it would take to reach for and swallow a pill. Most people can be trained in one or two sessions. And there are no side effects other than the feeling of mastery. MARIAN K. SHAPIRO Lexington, Mass.
You can find out more about this approach at the website of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, www.asch.net
As a specialist in anxiety disorders, I have found it most effective to meet the parents of an anxious child and work with them first. As parents feel less threatened, they communicate a less fearful attitude, and many children do not need treatment directly. A parent who feels confident about his ability to deal with what comes up is more likely to have a child who feels the same way. This does not deny the individual temperamental differences each of us has from birth, but it is important to be aware of how parents influence their children. LILI ENDLICH Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Courage of a Commander