Yeah I know, none of us knew that already did we?

A recent study published in the journal Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences has found that even a mild level of stress can reduce the effectiveness of therapeutic techniques for the control of emotions. These techniques focus on altering the approach and thoughts relating to a situation to allow better control of emotions in a situation. An example might be focusing on the positives in a situation that would produce a fear response.

The study carried out at New York University sought to determine if these therapeutic techniques would hold up in the real world when confronted by the daily stresses of living.

To test this, participants were first put through a process called “fear conditioning” where a certain stimulus, in this case photographs tied to mild electric shocks, is used to cause a learned fear response. Cognitive strategies, similar to the cognitive-behavioral therapy commonly proscribed by therapists, were then taught to the participants. These techniques are intended to aid in the mitigation of fear responses.

On the following day the study group was divided in to a control group and a stressed group. The method used to create the stress was the submersion of a hand in cold water for three minutes, while the unstressed group placed their hands into warm water.

The two groups were then shown the images from the previous day. The control group was found to have a diminished fear response, an indication that they were able to employ the techniques learned. The stressed group, however, showed no reduction in fear response.

There is a silver lining to all of this however. Candace Raio, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student in NYU’s Department of Psychology, believes that with practice and experience these cognitive strategies may become less sensitive to stress.

In the end, these techniques are like so many other things in life–practice makes perfect. That is what therapists are here for, to find the techniques that work best for you and help you learn to use them in your real life. So, if you think you could use a bit of help, contact Rebecca Ginder today at (561) 450-5255.