Biological Therapies for Phobias

  • Created by: jg1234
  • Created on: 21-02-16 11:51

Anti-Anxiety Drugs

  • Benzodizapines (BZs) are commonly used to treat phobias  
  • they increase the effect of GABA in the body 
  • the central nervous system (CNS) is slowed down and the activity of neurotransmitters is reduced casuing the person to become a lot more relaxed 


- Kahn et al - found that BZs were a lot more effective than a placebo in reducing the effects of anxiety 

Hildago et al - Benzodizapines are a lot more effective than anti-depressants 

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  • beta-blockers are used to reduce people's anxiety 
  • they reduce the effects of adrenaline in the body 
  • they cause an individual's heart rate and blood pressure to decrease 
  • by slowing all of these things down in the body it causes the individual to feel a lot more relaxed 


Liebowitz et al - beta-blockers are very effective in the reduction of anxiety 

- Turner et al - there is no difference in the effects that beta-blockers have to the effects of placebos

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Anti-Depressant Drugs

  • SSRIs are the preffered use of anti-deppressants for treating phobias - these are used to increase the serotonin levels in the body which will then regulate the individual's mood and anxiety 
  • MAOI are another form of anti-depressants used to treat phobias - they are a much older form and are very rearly used now


Leibowitz et al - MAOIs are a lot more effective than the use of beta-blockers and placebos 

Auoizerate et al - SSRIs provide relief for social phobics in 50-80% of cases 

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Drug Therapy Evaluation

Drug therapy is not a cure - by using drug therapy only the symptoms of the phobia are being cured intstead of the phobia itself 

As it is a drug therapy there may be lots of side effects cause (eg as beta-blockers are reducing a person's heart rate and blood pressure it may cause them to become very light-headed). Adding to this, the drugs may also become addictive so even if the individual doesn't need to use them they may carry on using them. 

Drug therapies have been found to be effective in combined therapy. This is using a drug therapy to treat the symptoms and make the person feel more relaxed while using a psychological therapy like CBT to treat the causes of the phobia. 

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This is a surgical intervention that aims to treat behvaiour for which no pathological cause can be established. 

Capaulotomy & Cingulotomy 

  • this is used for the treatment of anxiety disorders 
  • they remove the capsule and the cingulum which are areas associated with emotion 
  • the operation is irreversible and used only as a very last resort 

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

  • this involves wires being placed on the targeted areas of the brain 
  • when the current is on it interrupts target circuits resulting in the reduction of the symptoms 

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) 

  • an electormagnetic coil is placed on the individuals scalp 
  • this is used to creat painless electric currents within the brain 
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Psychosurgery Evaluation

Ruck et al

  • 26 patients with anxiety disorders
  • they had been experiencing it for more than 5 years and no other treatments had worked
  • they all had capsulotomy 
  • a year after the operation there had been a significant reduction in anxiety 
  • there had been lots of negative side effects caused inclusing suicide etc 

Szasz - critisced psychosurgery by saying that a person's psychological self isn't something physical so it can't be operated on to remove it 

There are lots of ethical issues involved 

- it may cause someone harm eg if they try to commit suicide 

- there may not be informed consent 

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