Now, facing your fears may not be such a difficult thing after all, for a Swiss-led research team has developed a treatment that could help people overcome their fears simply by popping a pill before facing a stressful situation.
Researchers tested 40 people with social phobia and 20 with a fear of spiders with the pill, which contains a human hormone called cortisol that the body produces naturally in times of stress or fear to help subdue the panic response.
The researchers, led by Dominique de Quervain of the University of Zurich gave the volunteers cortisol and then, an hour later, made them give a presentation and undergo an impromptu maths test, or to view a picture of a large spider.
They found that volunteers who had taken cortisol reported significantly less fear, on a scale of 0 to 10, than those given a placebo.
Thus finding that artificially increasing levels of cortisol can indeed help phobics overcome the paralysing fear, that they feel when faced with the source of their anxiety.
De Quervain said that though the treatment would never become a daily pill, it could prove beneficial when combined with behavioural therapy.
"This will never be a daily pill. But it could be used in combination with behavioural therapy," Nature quoted him as saying.