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Mental Health

How to Stop Scary Driving Anxiety and Phobia Experiences – A new study may have discovered a simple solution

Car accidents, for example, can leave a permanent mark. These experiences may produce strong recollections that cause long-term fear and anxiety of comparable situations. Researchers have discovered a remarkable, and surprisingly simple, technique to prevent a terrifying encounter from developing into a more permanent, unpleasant force.

Playing the well-known computer games Tetris or Candy Crush after an awful event can halt the production of recurrent, disruptive recollections, according to a new study, presented in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Traumatic memories are quite intense. Rather than just the plain data of an occurrence, They can hold the powerful feeling, as well as the scary images and noises of the original experience. Experiencing a memory may feel more like ‘reliving’ than recalling. Understandably, repeating any form of terrifying experience in this manner can severely disrupt daily life. It may ultimately result in fears, acute stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and long-term grief.

Let us now discuss the study’s findings.

Based on neuroscience results and past findings from studies, the researchers wished to see if a simple exercise might stop memories of trauma from generating chronic distress. 

The study included 71 people who had been in a serious car accident and were waiting in the urgent care unit of a hospital. Individuals were placed into two groups: a ‘gaming group’ that received the computer game intervention and a control group that did not. Individuals in the gaming group were given the task of thinking about the road accident and playing Tetris for roughly 20 minutes within six hours of the tragedy.

When contrasted with the control group, persons in the gaming group had 62% fewer intrusive recollections in the week after their car accident. They also reported a reduction in anxiety.

       ‘A quick psychological intervention involving Tetris offers a cognitive ‘therapeutic vaccination’ that might be provided quickly after a traumatic incident to avoid the recurrence of intrusive trauma memories in another week,’ the researchers write. 

According to the researchers, Drawing, or other electronic games that mix visual and spatial challenges, such as Candy Crush, could possibly provide similar advantages. They further claim that these activities may be more useful than those that are primarily focused on verbal tasks, such as literature or solving crossword puzzles.

Traumatic memories without the trauma. How exactly does that work?

Previous studies released in the Journal of Neuroscience discovered that persistent anxiety caused by a terrifying occurrence is consolidated in memory at two important points. The first occurs immediately after the occurrence, and the second occurs between three and six hours later. During this time, a number of chemical and electrical mechanisms in the brain work to convert short-term memories to long-term memories. If something disrupts this procedure, the memory becomes more fragile, and the anxiety associated with that experience decreases.

This suggests that there is a possibility of avoiding a frightening occurrence from being fully consolidated in memory with the feelings views, and sounds of the initial trauma between the point of trauma and up to six hours afterward. This does not imply that people will forget about the occurrence. That is if the procedure of forming memories is disrupted at this important phase, the memory will remain, but the emotion associated with the first occurrence will be less intrusive. This reduces the likelihood that recalling the memory will result in a traumatic ‘reliving’ of the incident.

So practically speaking, what does it mean?

The best thing about these therapies is that they have no negative side effects. Although more study is required to assess their effectiveness on a larger scale, there is no danger in utilizing them after any traumatic incident to try to reduce the trauma’s long-term damage.

Long-term fears and phobias are frequently rooted in a single impact that applies to similar situations. For example, a frightening encounter with a dog leads to a fear of all dogs, being frightened by a popping balloon that leads to a dread of balloons, choking on food that leads to a fear of swallowing, getting skittled by a wave that leads to a fear of the ocean, and a number of others. Fears and phobias often motivate avoidance and can exert far more power over everyday activities than they deserve. Steering behaviors to prevent another painful experience may appear rational, but it can also take a lot of lives. Avoidance can have a long-term impact, impacting not just the person experiencing the dread, but also others near them who miss out on their involvement or need to change plans to deal with the anxiety.

It’s part of being human that things occur that make us feel weak, helpless, and scared. If this occurs to you or somebody close to you, enjoying a visual-spatial game like Tetris or Candy Crush for 20 minutes during the first six hours following the experience may prevent it from being more disruptive and painful than it deserves.  

And finally…

We, humans, are motivated by feelings, and when that feeling is painful, the memory of it can be long-lasting and strong, driving behavior in the long run. When painful recollections are stored in the brain, the emotions associated with the initial experience can be preserved in such a way that they can be accessed each time the memory is recalled. It happens as a ‘reliving’ rather than a recollection. This brings the initial experience to life, causing ongoing trauma, dread, and suffering with each memory. It can eventually result in anxiety, despair, or an acute and persistent psychological reaction.

Additional study is needed to determine the long-term advantages of enjoying video games or sketching as part of a person’s defense against disturbing recollections after an unpleasant occurrence. Meanwhile, if there is any possibility of such a simple, safe, and readily available approach to reduce afterward stress, there appears to be little reason not to include it as part of the reaction to any unpleasant encounter.