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The Therapeutic Role of Guided Mental Imagery in Treating Stress and Insomnia: A Neuropsychological Perspective

DOI: 10.4236/ojmp.2020.91003, PP. 21-39

Keywords: Mental Imagery, Guided Imagery, Insomnia, Chronic Stress, Hyperarousal, Vicious Cycle

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Abstract:

Excessive distress and insomnia are much too common in the modern world and often lead to a myriad of detrimental effects including loss of cognitive ability and even physical ailments such as cancer. Current pharmaceutical treatments can be addictive, detrimental to health, and in the case of insomnia don’t produce naturalistic sleep. We present a viewpoint on a potential adjunctive treatment of distress and insomnia that harnesses specific mental imagery as a component of mind/body relaxation technique. Via our perspective on the modern nature of stress and insomnia, our theoretical perspective on how specific guided mental imagery can be used to treat these ailments, and our review on the current literature on treatment with mental imagery, we hope to stimulate further research into mental health treatment with mental imagery which has traditionally been neglected. This perspective on the pathology of insomnia and distress is founded in prevailing “dysevolution” and hyper-arousal theories. Hyper-arousal is characterized in part by a vicious cycle of chronic physiological and emotional stimulation/distress. We argue for spatially based mental imagery in the form of nighttime-sky imagery to attenuate such pathology by breaking one away from a vicious cycle of stimulation and distress and discuss neuropsychological bases for its potential treatment mechanisms which include the autonomic nervous system and a phenomenal foundation of conscious cognition.

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