A TikToker has shared a £4 hack he says helps manage his anxiety – but does it really work?
Known as Mr Impulsive on the platform, the recovering addict has said using Vick’s Vaporub is his go-to helper when he’s struggling with anxiety and panic attacks.
‘If you struggle, Vicks Vaporub can break you right out of that,’ he said in a video, rubbing the gel on his chest. ‘How? Take Vicks, open it up, rub a little bit right here.’
‘Next thing you know, you’re breathing in that menthol, you feel the coolness on your skin.
‘All these thoughts, all this fear, all this worry, all this panic in your brain, shifts to the sense of smell, the sense of touch and it shifts your memory process to even times when you were sick or times as a kid.’
He admits that the product, which many may remember from childhood, isn’t designed as an anti-anxiety medication, but praised it for helping his mental health.
‘It gets you to start breathing and controlling your breathing, even through the menthol.
‘Now, it lets you regain control over your breathing, which can kind of freak out and even add to our anxiety.
‘Now you have control over that feeling, you feel the touch on you, you smell the menthol and it can calm you down and it can help ground you through an anxiety attack.’
But should others try Mr Impulsive’s trick?
We asked Oliver Robinson, professor of neuroscience and mental health at University College London.
He said: ‘First of all, it’s not recommended for anxiety, and no doctor would recommend it.
‘But could it work? There are as many different types of anxiety as there are people in the world, so if it works for you, it works for you.
‘For some people, processing your anxiety – the ritual of it and thinking about your anxiety to try and improve it – including through a ritual such as smell.’
However, while the process of using Vick’s may help psychologically, it is very much just down to the brain itself.
‘I’m not saying it isn’t possible, that it doesn’t work, but is it the Vick’s?’ he says. ‘Certainly there’s nothing anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] in it.
‘It’s probably the placebo effect. That doesn’t mean “not real” – the placebo effect can work really well to reduce anxiety that’s internally generated, meaning we can also internally reduce it.
‘The placebo is still doing something to help reduce the effect [of anxiety], and it might work for some people, but it won’t work for everyone – I suspect it won’t work for many.
‘But thinking about [your anxiety] can be a very powerful cue.’
So while Vick’s isn’t guaranteed to help everyone – and doesn’t come doctor-approved – it does prove not to dismiss the placebo effect. If it works for you, it works.
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