Exposing yourself to your fears, can be one of the most effective ways of treating your Anxiety Disorder. Exposure Therapy is a method in which works by you gradually working with your fears, helping you to become more confident in your own ability to deal with things.
With exposure, the idea is to start small with something you feel you may manage and work up to more fearful things.
So for example if you fear lifts then you would not try to get into a lift and travel 100 floors to start with as the chances are that would completely over face you. Successful exposure therapy is not about flooding yourself straight away so that the task becomes unmanageable, it is about beginning to slowly take smaller steps that feel manageable and will build your confidence.
It is not about avoiding your feelings, as I have said before you must feel panic feelings to overcome them, so you must not avoid the feelings that you are dreading. It is about learning to work with your fear, till it does not have the same fearful affect on you anymore.
Ultimately with a Panic issue, it has to be you that learns to cope with the feelings inside you. Exposure therapy will help you gain the courage to do this at a pace that works for you.
Fears and Phobia's work on avoidance, they gain in strength the more we avoid. The key is to understand why this avoidance is working against you and to learn to reverse the cycle, making the correct choices each time you feel the fear, that would bring you closer to your goal. By exposing yourself to your fear in a steady controlled way, you are learning to work with it in a way in which you are able to see that it is you that is able to find the courage to do it and not by relying on avoidance or safety behaviours.
In other sections, I have talked about why and how Anxiety manifests as it does. I have talked about how the cycle works and what you must do to reverse the cycle. Exposure Therapy is a way of overcoming this fear in a way that you are reversing the effects of the Amygdala and removing your fear at the route in a manageable way.
Removing fear is about stopping avoidance, and allowing your feelings to be felt so that they can process. Feelings need to process to go away. You cannot avoid yourself, and trying to will only leave you stuck in the cycle that you are desperately trying to get out of.
What is a manageable step and an example of how you use Exposure Therapy?
Let's use the fear of lifts that I mentioned earlier for example, breaking it down into manageable pieces.
1. You would start by approaching a lift and pressing the button to call the lift to our floor , repeat until you feel comfortable to move to step two.
2. Another day you would step into the lift with a friend holding the door open and then step out of it again. Repeat until you feel comfortable to move onto step three.
3. You would then allow the doors to close while you are inside and then push the door open button again to let yourself back out- repeat until you feel comfortable enough to move to step four.
4. Finally you get to the point where you can enter the lift and travel one floor.
Then you can build on this until you feel able to travel in any lift confidently and comfortably where ever you might need to get in one, staying inside and travelling more floors at the same time.
At this point you have successfully trained your brain at a subconscious level to not react with this fear no more, and you will have successfully learned that you are able to deal with your own fear.
Overcoming fear in any form, requires exposure to the fear and the feelings the fear is generating. Exposure Therapy allows this process but in planned manageable steps.
A clue where you would need to start would be where you are feeling Anxiety. It is helpful to identify the areas and situations that you need to focus your efforts and plan the small steps of exposure before getting started.
You can work with a Therapist, but you can also do this alone.