DESENSITIZATION THROUGH GRADED EXPOSURE
METHOD OF DEALING WITH FEARS/PHOBIAS: desensitization through graded exposure
Desensitization through graded exposure is a method that can be used to help manage your anxiety and overcome fear. Let us say that there is a particular situation in which you always feel anxious and/or afraid. For example, perhaps you have a fear (or phobia) concerning the use of an elevator. Desensitization through graded exposure involves you actually confronting your feared situation directly. The idea is to train yourself to feel relaxed and safe in response to your anxiety-provoking situation. It is not possible to be relaxed and anxious at the same time. So, the result you want is to learn to remain in the anxiety-provoking situation and stay calm at the same time.
I will give you an example of how desensitization through graded exposure might work. Let us use the example of fear of using an elevator. Such a phobia is the result of the process of sensitization…this involves associating anxiety with a particular situation. Perhaps you once panicked while in a lift. It is likely that you then made a strong association between being in a lift and high anxiety. After that, just thinking about a lift might make you feel anxious. You then start avoiding going in lifts because of the fear of experiencing anxiety or panic again.
One might start with just looking at an elevator coming and going. When you can do that while remaining calm you go to a slightly more difficult step e.g standing in a stationary lift with a support person. When you can do that while remaining calm you make the situation slightly more difficult e.g you travel up or down one floor with a support person…and so on until you can travel on a lift alone without your support person and remain calm.
Examples of fears/phobias your counsellor/psychotherapist can help you to overcome using desensitization through graded exposure are:
- fear of spiders or snakes;
- fear riding in elevators;
- shopping in a supermarket;
- being in crowded places;
- travelling alone on a train during rush hour;
- fear of talking before a large audience.
To learn more about desensitization through graded exposure see:
Watch the following youtube video in which desensitization through graded exposure is discussed. The URL address is www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcojyGx8q9U