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Smelling Other People’s Underarm Sweat Can Reduce Your Social Anxiety

Have you ever walked passed someone and smelt a whiff of their body odour? I think we can all agree that it’s not a pleasant smell, in fact, it can make you feel quite uncomfortable. This is why you’ll be surprised by the findings of this latest study.

Shockingly, odours from other people’s sweat may be able to help treat social anxiety. New research suggests social anxiety was reduced when people underwent mindfulness therapy while exposed to what is commonly referred to as body odour taken from the underarm sweat from volunteers.

Having social anxiety can affect daily interactions, for example within the workplace or relationships, but also in everyday situations such as shopping or holidays. This could result in people worrying excessively about contact with others.

There are currently a number of treatments available for the condition, including cognitive behavioural therapy, guided self-help, and antidepressant medicines, according to the NHS.

The study involved collecting sweat from volunteers and then exposing patients to chemo-signals (body odour) extracted from these sweat samples, while they were being treated for social anxiety.

The samples were collected from people who were watching short clips from movies that had been chosen to elicit particular emotional states such as fear or happiness.

Researchers did this intentionally to see if the specific emotions experienced while perspiring had differing effects on the treatment.

The happy clips included material from comedic films like Mr. Bean’s Holiday and Sister Act, whilst other clips came from scary movies like The Grudge.

Once the sweat had been collected, researchers recruited 48 women, all of whom suffered from social anxiety, and divided them into three groups each of 16 people. Over two days, they all underwent mindfulness therapy for social anxiety.

At the same time, each group was exposed to the odour samples or to clean air. The study found that the women who had been exposed to the odour samples responded better to the therapy.

Patients who undertook one treatment session of mindfulness therapy together with being exposed to human body odours showed about a 39% reduction in anxiety scores.

Whereas in the group receiving only the therapy, there was a 17% reduction in anxiety scores after one treatment session.

“Our state of mind causes us to produce molecules (or chemo-signals) in sweat which communicate our emotional state and produce corresponding responses in the receivers,” lead researcher Elisa Vigna, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said.

“The results of our preliminary study show that combining these chemo-signals with mindfulness therapy seem to produce better results in treating social anxiety than can be achieved by mindfulness therapy alone”.

We’ll take their word for it.

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