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Can Guided Imagery Prevent MRI Panic in a Severely Claustrophobic Person?

18 Jan

We got this email from a person who has used our guided imagery with great success. It's a great story that we believe you'll enjoy reading.

Dear HJ,

On the advice of a medical social worker friend, I tried your pre-surgery program for an upcoming reconstructive operation. My friend said her hospital recommended it for all its pre-surgery patients, and that research has proven it to be effective.   

I listened to it faithfully, twice a day, for 5 days before my date with the O.R.  I’m not an especially anxious person, but I was feeling dread and fear about this surgery.

This program absolutely overcame any anxiety or dread I felt. I was calm and confident and at no point during pr-eop, surgery, or post-op was I disturbed in any way. I was awake during the procedure but don't remember it.

Because of my surprisingly good experience, I decided to use it to help me deal with my severe claustrophobia before an MRI I knew I had to have.

I suffer from extreme claustrophobia, to the point where, for example, I MUST sit on the aisle, very close to the exit door at a theater. I arrive early, just to get that seat. I avoid elevators and will not use the subway. Even half empty buses get me hyperventilating.You can imagine how I felt about the prospect of being locked up in a noisy tube.

I began listening to program for Panic Attacks one week before the procedure, each time with my eyes covered. I fell asleep every time and never heard the end of the program. 

When the time for my MRI came, the tech played the CD during the procedure, I covered my eyes. I had absolutely no problem whatsoever. I didn't even have anxiety beforehand. I can't believe I was in a tube for 20 minutes without suffering a panic attack. This was a miracle of Biblical proportions, as far as I’m concerned.

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award