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Medical News and Perspectives
January 21, 2004

Fear Factor

JAMA. 2004;291(3):289-290. doi:10.1001/jama.291.3.289

New Orleans—If you fall off a horse, common wisdom says to climb right back into the saddle. This time-worn adage seems like sage advice. Now, scientists are working to understand the biological basis for conquering fear by confronting it .

Facing fears to prevent them from worsening does appear to have psychological validity, as therapies for phobias demonstrate. "Behavior therapy is the most effective treatment we have for human anxiety disorders," said Mark Barad, MD, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. Through such therapy, patients confront their fears in controlled situations to learn to get past them. "It's used effectively to treat phobias, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], and to a certain extent, generalized anxiety disorder."

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