Exposure Therapy is a specific behavioral method that was developed to help people confront their fears. When an individual is fearful of something, they instinctively avoid the feared object, activity or situation. In most cases, if fear or a stressful experience is avoided, it will continue to grow over time and create situations or reactions that can’t be avoided. This build-up of fear can make it difficult to get through the day, give you panic attacks, depression, or lose sleep at night. By bringing up these feelings in exposure therapy, we control the situation and make space to face those fears so they can be let go.
This type of treatment has been proven to reduce levels of stress in patients with Specific Phobias, Panic Disorders, Social Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. There are multiple variations of exposure therapy techniques which include: triggering situations or thoughts faced in person (in vivo), imagined in a hypothetical scenario, using technology in virtual reality, or Interoceptive exposure. It’s up to the clinician and patient to decide what technique works best for them and create that safe space for treatment.
The goal of exposure therapy is to reduce the level of anxiety and stress associated with a current fear or situation. The treatment can help improve self-confidence and the ability to process fears instead of avoiding them. By practicing and learning about your avoidance patterns, you’ll build awareness for future triggers and minimize the stress it has on you. Repeated exposure may also weaken previously learned associations and/or lead to habituation