If the very thought of heights, touching a spider or riding in an elevator makes you feel sick, then researchers at The University of Queensland may be able to help.

Researchers from UQ’s Behaviour Research and Therapy Centre are seeking people between the ages of 45 and 75 years to participate in a program designed to help them overcome their phobias.

The 10-week program will focus on various techniques aimed at relaxing participants, followed by sessions of “exposure therapy” in which subjects will gradually “approach” their individual feared stimulus.

Principal researcher Dr Nancy Pachana said psychology had made great strides in helping people overcome phobias through exposure but there was still a question about the best way to go about this.

“We’re doing a series of studies to address this question and also look at whether there is a difference between more traditional exposure therapy protocols and more accelerated ones which just focus on exposure,” Dr Pachana said.

“We’re also interested in whether there is a difference between older and middle-aged adults and how they respond to this treatment.”

Dr Pachana said studies in this area have traditionally focused on people up to age 60.

“That’s why this study is so exciting, as investigating the outcomes of this treatment program will also help to tailor interventions to different age groups more effectively and extend the benefits beyond individual participants,” she said.

Anxiety due to phobic fear can negatively impact on many areas of people’s lives, including their health, their reported levels of pain, their independence and their ability to carry out tasks of daily living.

The potential benefits of successfully reducing anxiety extend far beyond just reducing the distress associated with their fear.

Those interested in the program shouldn’t have any major medical or memory problems and their primary problem must be a specific phobia.

As participants will be exposed to their phobias those with a fear of flying, blood, needles or social phobias wouldn’t be well suited to this program.

If you are interested in participating in the program please call 3365 6358. Participants will be charged a small fee of $5 per session.