Maybe you can’t stand being in a small, crowded room or you start screaming at the sight of a tiny spider. If you have a phobia, then you know how it can affect your day-to-day life. Phobias can be mild or they can be completely life altering. No matter whether your phobia makes you fear leaving your home or simply turns you off of camping, it’s a big problem that could potentially lower your quality of life.
For a long time, doctors have worked to find a cure for these irrational fears. Some success has been found in psychotherapy, virtual reality, and even hypnotism, but these therapies don’t necessarily work for every person.
Now, a recent study is looking to remedy the fears of phobics by using a simple injection. It turns out that cortisol, a glucocorticoid hormone that is produced in the adrenal glad, may be the answer to treating phobias. Much like adrenaline, this hormone is released during stressful situations by the body.
It probably seems weird to inject more of the stress hormone into a person’s body during a situation that’s already causing them stress. However, according to a study published in the March issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adding more cortisol into a Person’s system seems to reduce their fear.
Scientists aren’t entirely sure what cortisol’s role is in the human body, except that it’s released in stressful situations, but the new evidence supports a theory that cortisol may be useful in the reduction of fear.
Researchers injected patients suffering from social phobia with a 25 mg dose of cortisol. An hour later, the patients were put into a situation known to elevate fear in patients suffering from this disorder. The shot reduced their fear during all stages of the situation.
Another group — this one suffering from arachnophobia (a fear of spiders) — received a smaller dose of cortisol before being exposed to the insect. Their fear levels were also reduced significantly. Patients given a placebo did not experience any changes in their fear levels.
Even more exciting is the fact that patients given the cortisol shots maintained that reduced fear when they were exposed to their phobia two days after their last injection.
This study shows that cortisol may be useful in temporarily and possibly even permanently reducing phobia-related fear. It doesn’t work for all types of fears, though (fear of not getting a job or losing a bet, etc.), so it’s not the answer to all of your fears, just your phobias.
Oh, and there’s one more group of people this injection may not work on — people with a fear of needles.