Entries in Fear of Heights (1)


Can Cortisol Stress Hormone Help to Overcome Fear of Heights?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BASEL, Switzerland) -- A study published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that the addition of the stress hormone cortisol to traditional exposure therapy could help patients overcome the fear of heights.  In exposure therapy, patients are gradually introduced to the thing they fear to reduce the anxiety they feel in the future when encountering these objects or situations.

Dr. Dominique J.-F. de Quervain, director of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Basel in Switzerland and lead author of the study, says that more research is needed to explore the therapeutic potential of cortisol in combination with psychotherapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

"This is a first study -- a proof of concept, if you wish," he says.

The study included 40 people having clinically diagnosed acrophobia, or fear of heights.  Before engaging in virtual exposure activities, half of the patients took the cortisol hormone, while the other half was only given an inactive placebo.

At the trial's conclusion, the patients who took cortisol experienced fewer anxiety responses than those who had not been given cortisol.

The study authors also report that cortisol may help patients with social and spider phobias.

Researchers claim that patients with phobias generally recall mentally-recorded episode of fear when experiencing anxiety responses. 

But Dr. de Quervain says, "Cortisol inhibits retrieval of the fear memory and promotes the storage of corrective experiences."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio