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November 1, 2012
Most of us have one or another kind of phobias. Some people are afraid of darkness, some are afraid of being betrayed, some are afraid of being fooled or taken advantage of. Some are afraid of seeing bad dreams, afraid of flying, or have a fear of heights. The most common phobias include claustrophobia (the fear of confined space), nyctophobia (the fear of darkness), hemophobia (the fear of blood), mysophobia (the fear of germs), and others. Many experts say that the roots of such phobias go deep in our childhood, and the causes of our fears and phobias are nothing else but our childhood fears and bad memories. A great deal of treatments for various phobias are based on this assumption, and such techniques as behavior therapy or using natural remedies for relaxation and others work great to suppress bad memories and get free from our childhood fears.
In particular, it is offered to use a special type of aromatherapy for sleep as a new treatment approach for most common phobias. It is a known fact that sleep is a great solution to calm down our emotions, reset our brains and refresh our memories. According to the findings of a scientific group at Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, sleep can be used to combat conditioned fears and phobias. As their study has shown, having adequate and good quality sleep on a daily basis can play a role in promoting generalization of extinction memory from an extinguished conditioned stimulus to a similarly conditioned but unextinguished stimulus. In other words, sleep can assist in combating our fears in general and make us less dependent on bad memories from our childhood. You can learn plenty of information about this interesting research in this report.
Recently, a group of researchers of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, attempted to learn taking the most from our sleep and experimented with exposing sleeping participants of the research to various odors, including those linked with positive and negative emotions from their earlier experiences. The expert team led by Jay Gottfried and Katherina Hauner invited a number of volunteers for their study and exposed them to the pictures of four faces, at that when each face appeared, the participants were also exposed to a common familiar smell (like cinnamon, mint, and others). Besides, when being exposed to one of the faces, participants were receiving a painful electric shock as a way to cause negative emotions and a certain fear associated with the picture of the face.
In order to monitor the situation better, the scientists measured the amounts of electricity conducted by the participants’ skin (when we feel scared of something, we release sweat which is a very good conductor). Then, a half the participants were asked to sleep, and during their sleep they were exposed to various odors, including the ones which were coming with the faces they associated with fear. It turned out that after having a good sleep and having a seance of aromatherapy for sleep as a treatment, the participants experienced considerably less fear when being exposed to the same ‘painful’ faces again, compared to those participants who were not allowed having a nap and were not treated with the special aromatherapy seance. Moreover: as the conductivity measurements have shown, most of those participants who had no sleep displayed even more serious signs of fear, so they started feeling afraid of the ‘painful’ faces more than earlier.
The scientists tried to find out what can be the causes of such amazing effects, but even brain scans did not give possible clues to solving this mystery. The only information that the researchers have in their hands include the reports of the participants. In particular, most of those who had sleep and were exposed to the odors said that they saw the face in their dreams every time when they smell the odor. Study leaders underline the necessity of further researches, but they are convinced that the findings give full grounds that the offered aromatherapy for sleep can be used as a support posttraumatic stress disorder treatment and help the patients combat the most common fears. The findings of the experts were recently presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Read more about the even and the study here.Author Info: Hi! My name is Carla and I am a 5th year medical student at HYMS. I am interested in alternative medicine and I have done months researching the topic of herbal medicine. Besides, I like interviewing people and learning more about their experiences with one or another type of herbal treatments. I am willing to contribute to this site with my knowledge, and I would be happy to help you out to the best of my ability with any specific questions or problems related to alternative medicine.