Here’s the good news: there’s a cure for fear on the horizon, and you can do it in your sleep. The bad news? It’s still a bit theoretical at this point.
Writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers have used exposure therapy and sleep to help patients overcome fear . . . albeit, one they created.
First, researchers conditioned their subjects to fear a certain face and odour by giving them an electric shock whenever presented with said face or odour. They measured their subjects terror-sweat, because apparently that’s how you measure fear. Then, having created fear in their subjects, researchers set about curing them. They did so by exposing their subjects to the fear-inducing odour whilst they were asleep, and could therefore become accustomed to their fear-triggering mechanism without the stress of being awake.
Of course, this is all very preliminary; clinical treatment using this knowledge is still some time away, presumably because not all fears come with associated scents.