Desensitization to Fear

Desensitization to Fear

Desensitization is the core element of the fear reduction process. In short, desensitization involves: exposing yourself to your fears in carefully controlled doses, in a systematic way, with the exposure rate (time and place) controlled entirely by you, so that the fears eventually lose their ability to upset you. If you summon up an emotion, and do this over and over, in the absence of any adverse consequences, as would be the case during a desensitizing session in a therapist’s office, or if you are at home just thinking about or imagining the situation, it is only a matter of time before your response to it lessens.

Exposure to thoughts and images that make us anxious, done in an unplanned way, is a random and inefficient process. This is because focusing on distressing thoughts is something we usually avoid, so that under normal circumstances the mind actually works against itself to resist the very process that would ultimately produce maximum relief. We may be driven to summon up emotionally distressing material in an attempt to extinguish it, but then we run into a counterbalancing desire to avoid it. As a result, our mind vacillates and the healing process is drawn out. Thus over the course of many months, the actual exposure is likely to be brief and sporadic, even though we may feel as if our mind is constantly on the heart of the problem.

The course of desensitization takes the process a giant step further than exposure alone. You will not only expose yourself to your fear by conjuring it up, you will call up many different scenarios involving the fear and manipulate it in various ways, and then imagine your responses to these various situations. The mental experience of visualizing these different versions of a threat, and then your responses to them, results in a more fully rounded, sounder, and more enduring form of extinction.
Under the guidance of a psychologist trained in exposure response prevention, you can overcome your fears and rid yourself of debilitating anxiety.

Contact a qualified mental health provider today.