Does the thought of boarding a plane make your palms sweat? How about starting a new job, or even just speaking up in a meeting? Anxiety plagues all of us in different ways, but new research from the University of California, Los Angeles suggests that conquering it could be as simple as naming it.
Researchers asked 88 people who were afraid of spiders to approach a captive tarantula. They were then shown a different spider, and instructed to either verbalize their negative emotions, describe the spider neutrally, talk about something else entirely, or say nothing at all. Then they were asked to approach the tarantula again. The results: “People who verbalized their emotions showed decreases in their physical fear response one week later,” says study author Katharina Kircanski, PhD, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Those who talked about how scared they were had a more significant reduction in “skin conductance response”—hand sweat—than the others.
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