June 8, 2012

Fear of Flying? Driving? Read Here from the Comfort of Your Chair

     When someone presents with a highly specific fear, or phobia, that is interfering with life in a big way, such as a fear of driving (vehophobia), flying (pteromerhanophobia) or vomiting (emetophobia, more common than you would think), behavioral psychologists will often treat with specialized techniques that research has shown can work very well.

     Desensitization Training and Exposure Therapy are two such techniques.

     Watered down versions of these two treatment methods are often used in some form or fashion when treating more diffuse or generalized forms of anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety.  The essential mechanisms are the same:  learn relaxation skills and then pair with the feared event or object.

     I am going to play lazy today and give you a link to Michael Murrell, Psy.D.'s blog post (click here) where he describes Desensitization for Anxiety.  So please check our Dr. Murrell's post if you are looking for help with a specific phobia.  It's important to be guided through the correct procedures by a trained professional in order to find treatment success.  Reviewing these techniques and then asking the psychologist you are interviewing whether she or he uses them to treat phobias is a great way to insure you find the proper treatment for your fears.

     The core of desensitization involves first pairing, and then replacing, feelings of anxiety with feelings of calm.  Learning to relax is a necessary first step toward applying desensitization.  Deep breathing is one type of relaxation exercise often recommended.  You can check out my previous post which describes a particularly effective form of deep breathing that I most frequently suggest, here.

     Using deep breathing exercises throughout the day, two minutes here - ten seconds there - can help keep anxiety and stress levels lower, can help rid our bodies of the stress signals that often accumulate by the end of a typical work or school day.  And can also help be more successful when engaged in the actual exposure to a fearful event.

Additional resources:

Some good advice here that applies to driving phobia.

Anyone who has seen me for any length of time 
will agree I should hang this cartoon on my wall 
(thank you, Natalie Dee).

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