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Home Industry News Phobias ‘can be treated through unconscious exposure’

Phobias ‘can be treated through unconscious exposure’

8th February 2017

Unconsciously exposing people with phobias to their fears could be an effective means of overcoming them, according to research.

Conducted by the Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the State University of New York, the research has indicated that exposure to phobic images without conscious awareness is more effective than longer, conscious exposure for reducing fear.

For this research, 42 women were recruited, of whom half were arachnophobic. The group was shown a series of images of flowers and spiders, with some viewing the spider images clearly, while others glimpsed them only briefly.

In participants with arachnophobia, very brief exposure to spider images strongly activated the subcortical regions of the brain involved in immediate fear processing, but the women did not experience fear consciously as the brain regions that regulate fear were also triggered.

By contrast, clearly visible exposure to the spider images deactivated areas of the brain that regulate fear responses, inducing the conscious experience of fear.

Dr Paul Siegel, associate professor of psychology at Purchase College of the State University of New York, said: "Our findings suggest that phobic people may be better prepared to face their fears if at first they are not consciously aware that they've faced them."

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