New research suggests that smelling other people’s sweat may help treat social anxiety.

The study found that social anxiety was reduced when people engaged in mindfulness therapy while being exposed to what is commonly referred to as body odor, which originates from volunteers’ armpit sweat.

Social anxiety is a mental illness that causes people to worry excessively about participating in social situations.

Lead researcher Elisa Vigna from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said: “Our state of mind causes us to produce molecules (or chemosignals) in sweat that communicate our emotional state and evoke appropriate responses in recipients.

“The results of our preliminary study indicate that combining these chemosignals with mindfulness therapy appears to produce better outcomes in treating social anxiety than would be possible with mindfulness therapy alone.”

Social anxiety can affect interactions, for example at work or in relationships, but also in everyday situations such as shopping or vacations.

This could make people overly concerned about socializing.

There are currently a range of treatments for the condition, including cognitive behavioral therapy, guided self-help and antidepressants, according to the NHS website.

The study involved collecting sweat from volunteers and then exposing patients to chemosignals (body odor) extracted from those sweat samples while they were being treated for social anxiety.

Samples were collected from people watching short clips from films chosen to evoke specific emotional states, such as fear or happiness.

The researchers did this to see if the specific emotions experienced when sweating had different effects on treatment.

The happy clips included footage from Mr Bean’s Holiday, Sister Act and others, while the scary movie clips included content from horror movies like The Grudge.

After the sweat was collected, the researchers recruited 48 women, all suffering from social anxiety, and divided them into three groups of 16 people each.

Over two days, they all underwent mindfulness therapy for social anxiety.

At the same time, each group was exposed to the smell samples or clean air.

The study found that the women who were exposed to the smell samples responded better to the therapy.

Patients who completed a mindfulness therapy treatment session while being exposed to human body odors showed a reduction in anxiety scores of approximately 39%.

While the group that received therapy alone saw a 17% reduction in anxiety scores after one treatment session.

Ms Vigna said: “We were somewhat surprised to find that the emotional state of the person producing the sweat did not differ in treatment outcomes – sweat produced while someone was happy had the same effect as someone , who was frightened by a film clip .

“So there may be something about human chemosignals in sweat in general that affects the response to treatment.”

“It may be that just being exposed to the presence of another person has this effect, but we have to confirm that.”

The results of the pilot study were presented at the European Psychiatric Congress in Paris.


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