Glucocorticoids reduce phobic fear in humans

Soravia, Leila M.; Heinrichs, Markus; Aerni, Amanda; Maroni, Caroline; Schelling, Gustav; Ehlert, Ulrike; Roozendaal, Benno; de Quervain, Dominique J-F (2006). Glucocorticoids reduce phobic fear in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America - PNAS, 103(14), pp. 5585-90. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences NAS 10.1073/pnas.0509184103

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Phobias are characterized by excessive fear, cued by the presence or anticipation of a fearful situation. Whereas it is well established that glucocorticoids are released in fearful situations, it is not known whether these hormones, in turn, modulate perceived fear. As extensive evidence indicates that elevated glucocorticoid levels impair the retrieval of emotionally arousing information, they might also inhibit retrieval of fear memory associated with phobia and, thereby, reduce phobic fear. Here, we investigated whether acutely administrated glucocorticoids reduced phobic fear in two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in 40 subjects with social phobia and 20 subjects with spider phobia. In the social phobia study, cortisone (25 mg) administered orally 1 h before a socio-evaluative stressor significantly reduced self-reported fear during the anticipation, exposure, and recovery phase of the stressor. Moreover, the stress-induced release of cortisol in placebo-treated subjects correlated negatively with fear ratings, suggesting that endogenously released cortisol in the context of a phobic situation buffers fear symptoms. In the spider phobia study, repeated oral administration of cortisol (10 mg), but not placebo, 1 h before exposure to a spider photograph induced a progressive reduction of stimulus-induced fear. This effect was maintained when subjects were exposed to the stimulus again 2 days after the last cortisol administration, suggesting that cortisol may also have facilitated the extinction of phobic fear. Cortisol treatment did not reduce general, phobia-unrelated anxiety. In conclusion, the present findings in two distinct types of phobias indicate that glucocorticoid administration reduces phobic fear.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Psychiatric Neurophysiology (discontinued)

UniBE Contributor:

Soravia, Leila

ISSN:

0027-8424

ISBN:

16567641

Publisher:

National Academy of Sciences NAS

Language:

English

Submitter:

Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:51

Last Modified:

17 Mar 2015 21:55

Publisher DOI:

10.1073/pnas.0509184103

PubMed ID:

16567641

Web of Science ID:

000236636400062

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/21770 (FactScience: 13922)

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