Believe it or not there’s an ideal time to of day to undergo a psychotherapy session to overcome fears, phobias and anxiety. Patients were found to make greater progress towards conquering these problems when they undergo therapy sessions in the morning according to clinical psychologist Alicia E. Meuret, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.
The study used 24 individuals with a panic disorder with agoraphobia. They then received 3 weekly in-vivo exposure sessions. The results from sessions starting earlier in the day were associated with superior therapeutic gains by the next therapy session. This is in part due to levels of cortisol being highest during the morning. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that is thought to tamp down on people’s fear. It brings down memories of previous distressing encounters that leave a scar. It also helps people remember the new “corrective” information, “see elevators full of spiders aren’t so bad!”
“Notably, higher cortisol was related to greater reductions in threat appraisal, perceived control and panic symptom severity at the next session,” Meuret said, “and that was the case over-and-above the effects of time-of-day, with large effect sizes.”
The findings of our study promote taking advantage of two simple and naturally occurring agents – our own cortisol and time of day.
“The hormone cortisol is thought to facilitate fear extinction in certain therapeutic situations,” said Meuret, lead author on the research. “Drugs to enhance fear extinction are being investigated, but they can be difficult to administer and have yielded mixed results. The findings of our study promote taking advantage of two simple and naturally occurring agents – our own cortisol and time of day.”
When used in medication Cortisol is known as hydrocortisone.
So if you were wanting to conquer a fear, the best time to do it is by starting the day with it. Just to get things going with a terrifying start.