2-Hour Therapy Removes Arachnophobia
Published Saturday, 26 May 2012 16:56 | Written by Amwal Al Ghad
People with spider phobia may hold the tiny nightmare in their hand without fear just after a single session of exposure therapy, US scientists say.
A Northwestern University study demonstrated that only a two- or three-hour exposure therapy session may significantly relive a lifelong fear of spiders which is one of the most common forms of phobia and anxiety disorder.
Exposure therapy is a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy that is often used for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and phobias.
The new study involved 12 people with severe fear of spiders or arachnophobia who could not even get closer than 10 feet (3 meters) on average to a tarantula before the therapy session.
“Before treatment, some of these participants wouldn't walk on grass for fear of spiders or would stay out of their home ... for days if they thought a spider was present,” said lead researcher Katherina Hauner.
“But after a two- or three-hour treatment, they were able to walk right up and touch or hold a tarantula,” she added. “And they could still touch it [six months later]. They were thrilled by what they accomplished.”
Functional MRI brain scans of the studied people revealed that at the beginning of the study, simply looking at photos of spiders triggered the activity of brain regions associated with fear response.
But immediately after the treatment, those regions significantly decreased sending unwelcome “fight or flight” fear signals and also remained less active even after six months.
The researchers were able to predict an individual’s long-term response to the treatment based on brain activity immediately after the therapy session.
The finding shows that the brains of the treated people had reorganized in some way to maintain the improvement, the authors suggested in their report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.