LivingFear of heights? Stress hormones fight it

Fear of heights? Stress hormones fight it

vertigoCombining thestress hormoneswith thebehavioral therapyit is possible to help peopleovercome fear of heights, according to a study by the University of Basel in Switzerland published in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The researchers, led by Dominique de Quervain, evaluated the effects ofcortisol, a stress hormone implicated in memory and learning, on reducing fear among people treated with exposure therapy to reduce their fear of heights (acrophobia). This therapy gradually helps curb fear responses through repeated controlled exposures to frightening situations.

In their study, the authors treated 40 people with a clinical diagnosis of acrophobia with three sessions of exposure therapy using a virtual reality facility that simulated a climb in an outdoor elevator. One hourbefore each session, half of the participants took oral cortisoland the other half received a placebo.

The authors evaluated the fear response of the participants at 3 and 5 days and one month after the last exposure session using a standard questionnaire on acrophobia and skin conductance tests, which allow determining if there is a physiological response. scary. Compared to participants who took placebo, those who took cortisol during exposure therapy showedless anxiety and less increase in skin conductanceduring follow-up, suggesting that cortisol increases the efficacy of exposure therapy in reducing fear of heights.

Quervain hopes that the treatment can bealso useful for treating social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.


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