MONDAY, March 28 (HealthDay News) -- Adding the stress hormone cortisol to more traditional exposure therapy may help anxious patients overcome their fear of heights, researchers say. Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing people to the thing they fear -- be it height or spiders -- in order to reduce fear responses. But while promising, this experimental treatment is not yet ready for prime time, said the authors of a study published online March 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This is a first study -- a proof of concept, if you wish," said study lead author Dr. Dominique J.-F. de Quervain, director of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Basel in Switzerland. "We now need more studies to explore the therapeutic potential of cortisol in combination with psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders," de Quervain said. The study involved 40 people with clinically diagnosed acrophobia -- fear of heights -- all of whom took three "virtual" outdoor elevator rides.
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