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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A new study says your imagination could help conquer your fears. The study showed just thinking about something, getting an image in your mind, might be enough to help you overcome things that creep you out.
Snakes, heights, roller coasters, and flying are all on the list of things people get most anxious about. To overcome intense fears, therapists often use a technique that involves exposing patients to the source of their fears to conquer them, but the reaction can be so intense, like with a fear of crowds, real exposure therapy can be overwhelming.
New research from Mount Sinai says guided imagining, just thinking about the thing you fear, can be just as effective.
The study involving 68 volunteers showed both techniques — exposure and imagining — trigger the part of the brain involved with perception, memory, learning and imagination.
The brain scans found that when you undergo exposure therapy, either real or imagined, a network in the brain that helps control feelings kicks into action. An example is thinking about being way up high in the sky, overlooking the city and imagining it long enough, that might be able to help overcome a fear of heights.
Imagination therapy is already used by therapists to treat patients who have obsessive-compulsive disorder.