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The smell of other people’s sweat may help treat it better

The smell of other people’s sweat may help treat it better

Social anxiety is a common mental health condition in which affected individuals experience excessive anxiety about participating in social situations. This can affect interactions, both at work and in social life, but also during everyday moments, such as shopping or going on vacation. Hence it is difficult for one to live their life without worrying excessively about contact with others.

In a preliminary study, a European team of researchers was able to show that social anxiety was further reduced in patients undergoing mindfulness therapy while they were exposed to chemical cues from body odor.

39% worried less about body odor than human sweat

People who underwent a mindfulness therapy session while exposed to human body odor showed a 39% reduction in anxiety scores after the therapy session. Whereas in the group receiving the mindfulness-only treatment (i.e., the control group), only a 17% reduction in anxiety scores was observed.

When the results of the study are presented to European Congress of PsychiatryElisa Vigna, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm (Sweden), which is taking place from March 25 to 28 in Paris, said:Our emotions trigger us to produce molecules (or “chemical signals”) in sweat that communicate our emotional state in order to elicit appropriate responses from the receptors. Our preliminary study results show that combining these chemical cues with mindfulness therapy appears to produce better results than mindfulness therapy alone in treating social anxiety.”

Sweat was taken from volunteers who were watching movie clips

The study involved collecting sweat from volunteers and then exposing the patients to chemical signals extracted from those samples, while they were undergoing treatment for social anxiety. Sweat samples were taken from participants who watched short clips of films chosen to evoke specific emotional states such as fear or happiness. This was to see if specific feelings during sweating had different effects on processing. Some of the clips intended to incite fear included excerpts from horror films such as grudge. Clips aimed at creating a sense of happiness included clips from movies such as Leave Mr. Bean or Sister Act.

Once the race was collected, the researchers recruited 48 women (ages 15-35), all of whom suffered from social anxiety, and divided them into 3 groups of 16 people each. Over the course of two days, they all underwent psychotherapy for social anxiety. At the same time, each group was exposed to a different odor, which was obtained from sweat samples from people who watched the different types of music videos from movies. For comparison, the control group was exposed to clean air.

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A new way to help people with social anxiety disorder?

“We found that women in the group exposed to the sweat of people who watched funny or scary movies responded better to psychotherapy than those who were not exposed to it. We were a bit surprised to find that the emotional state of the person producing the sweat did not differ in treatment outcomes — the sweat that Produced by someone watching a happy movie had the same effect on treatment as that produced by someone watching a scary movie.”Elisa Vigna explains.

“It may just be that exposure to someone else’s presence has this effect, but we need to confirm that.”and adds. “We hope this will lead to a new way of helping people with social anxiety disorder, for example by increasing the effectiveness of interventions or providing an alternative for those who do not respond to treatment.”concludes the researcher. However, Elisa Vigna cautions that due to the small number of participants and their lack of diversity, a larger study is needed to confirm the results.