Stress hormone can alleviate acrophobia: study

09:43, March 29, 2011      

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Stress hormone is helpful in alleviating acrophobia, a morbid fear of great heights, according to a study by Austrian scientists.

They published the findings in the recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Frank H. Wilhelm, professor from the Department of Clinical Psychology, Psychotherapy and Health Psychology at the University of Salzburg, Austria, carried out the first study demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of hormones released at periods of high stress in anxiety.

The study found hormones and other drugs could be a good addition to behavioral treatment of several anxiety disorders.

People with acrophobia have formed a so-called fear memory, which could be activated when the fear-causing stimulus occurs. They tend to react with feelings of extreme fear and anxiety to the ride in a glass elevator.

Hence, scientists conducted a confrontation therapy, trying to mask this memory.

A total of 40 experimental subjects had been put in a safe environment to constantly confront the fear-inducing stimulus, until they had a new reaction to the perceived threat.

Observations also suggested hormones released in high stress had impact on learning and memory.

Additionally, stress hormones were believed to facilitate the storage of new, anxiety-free competence and experienced confidence in the therapy. Animal studies have shown that this emotional relearning benefits from cortisol, one of the stress hormones.

Source: Xinhua
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