Squash Your Fear of Spiders
Phobias—extreme or irrational fears—make daily life challenging for many people. According to the NIH, 12.5 million people in the U.S. have an overwhelming fear—of flying, spiders, snakes, or needles, for example—and the phobia is severe in 22 percent of them.
Exposure therapy is a common treatment for this type of anxiety. It involves gradually bringing the person closer and closer to their fear to create a new, “safe” memory of the object or situation. However, the new memory is not always permanent and the fear often resurfaces in time. Now scientists are trying to find a way to make good memories stronger to decrease anxiety.
Researchers in Sweden studied arachnophobia—fear of spiders—and developed a technique that appears to decrease even life-long phobias. They measured activity in a part of the brain strongly associated with fear—the amygdala—and controlled exposure to pictures of spiders. Researchers were able to weaken the fear, making it easier to replace with a good memory.
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