Overcoming phobias - using the power of the ‘placebo effect’
Sometimes phobias, irrational or not, have to be faced up to. Doing so can be a mountain slope too steep to climb for some of us. Recognised self help treatments for overcoming phobias include: Lifestyle changes - regular exercise, regular meals, getting enough sleep and reducing / avoiding stimulants like coffee. Self exposure therapy - (de-sensitisation) gradually increasing exposure to a phobia. Relaxation and visualisation techniques. When exposed to a phobia try taking a placebo and reinforce your positive energies using some of the above techniques.
It's not uncommon for people with a phobia to suffer from panic attacks - these too can be helped by harnessing the power of the 'placebo effect'.
Social Anxiety Disorder and The Placebo Effect
A recent study by Mats Fredikson at Uppsala University Sweden, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was conducted using sufferers of social anxiety disorder. A major symptom of social anxiety disorder is a fear of negative judgement by third parties. A classic example is that sufferers show a powerful fear of speaking in public.
Sufferers of social anxiety disorder were asked to take part in a stressful public speaking event. The subjects were prescribed a placebo for eight weeks and then asked again to speak at a similar event. 40% of the subjects treated with the placebo demonstrated significant improvement in their symptoms over the trial period.psychologytoday.com - social anxiety disorder and the placebo effect
Subjects with a fear of flying treated with placebo demonstrate long term improvement
Research by the Stanford University School of Medicine demonstrated that anti-anxiety medication actually makes someone with a fear of flying more sensitive to flying (more likely to panic if not sufficiently medicated), and blocks de-sensitisation, making it less likely for an individual to become accustomed to flying.
The subjects of the research made two flights - the first where half the trial sample were given an anti anxiety pill (alprazolam - with side effects ranging from dizziness to hallucinations and aggression) the other half being given a placebo. On the second flight no medication was given. On the first flight 43% of the placebo group experienced some panic symptoms whereas the subjects who received the active medication did much better with only a few demonstrating displaying panic symptoms. Interestingly, on the second flight (where no medication was administered) only 29% of the placebo group experienced panic, from the group who received the active medication on the first flight 71% experienced panic. The placebo group experienced a significant de-sensitisation to their phobia.
FH Wilhelm, WT Roth - Stanford University - Acute and delayed effects of alprazolam on flight phobics during exposure