Patients make more progress toward overcoming anxiety, fears and phobias when their therapy sessions are scheduled in the morning, new research suggests.
The study found that morning sessions helped psychotherapy patients overcome their panic and anxiety and phobic avoidance better, in part, because levels of cortisol — a naturally occurring hormone — are at their highest then, said clinical psychologist Alicia E. Meuret, Southern Methodist University, Dallas.
“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.”
The findings were reported in the article “Timing matters: Endogenous cortisol mediates benefits from early-day psychotherapy” in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.