Exposure Therapy

Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a form of CBT, and is aimed at maladaptive, excessive, or unreasonable anxiety. That is, for example, someone with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) will touch a doorknob, and they’ll think, “Oh, if I touch this doorknob, I might get a disease like HIV.” So again, the anxiety is out of proportion to the actual experience.

The intention in exposure therapy is to get your brain to signal you in a more accurate way. In an anxiety disorder, your anxiety system is giving you misinformation. It’s giving you information that you’re in danger when you’re,in fact, not in danger.

So exposure therapy — the idea is that we have you systematically confront your fears: go into those situations that are causing you anxiety. The idea is that you don’t leave that situation and you don’t do anything to protect yourself. It’s a very difficult treatment because your anxiety actually feels like it’s increasing in the moment, and it is increasing in the moment.

As that bad thing doesn’t happen, the feared consequence doesn’t happen, your brain starts to learn something new — “Oh, bad things don’t happen in the situation the way that I thought” — and your anxiety naturally starts to come down on its own. And that’s what we think is helpful in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

So with repeated exposures to those kinds of situations — where you go into the situation, you don’t escape, you don’t protect yourself — your anxiety will go down on its own, and you’ll have less anxiety in future similar situations.

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Silence Your Fears and Begin Succeeding!!

Most of you live life with certain goals or dreams—whether it’s that big house or getting that promotion or being a good friend—there are things you want to achieve in your lifetime, to make your life more fulfilling and meaningful.

But how many of you are actively pursuing those dreams? Do you let them linger in the back of your mind, hoping that one day you’ll finally go after them? Is fear of failure something that’s holding you back?

Well, it’s time to stop fearing failure. Silence your inner critic and start chasing your dreams!

Here are 5 tips to help you come face-to-face with your fears and tell them, boldly…You will not stand in my way today.

  1. Define your failure. What does it mean for you to “fail?” Never trying? Giving up earlier than you had hoped? Not getting the outcome you expected… in a specific time frame? It may not seem obvious, but until you define specifically what failure means to you, it will stand as a barrier to your success.
  2. Distinguish what is a real vs. a perceived threat. Fear is a response to our body’s need to survive dangerous situations. Real threats are dangerous to our survival. For instance, fear of getting caught in the middle of gang fight, where you could get seriously injured, is a real threat whereas fear of competing in a half marathon is an imagined threat. The feeling of fear may be real, but more often than not, the actual threat is not and it hinders your ability to move forward.
  3. Set “approach” targets vs. “avoidance” targets. Approach targets involve achieving a certain outcome whereas avoidance targets involve avoiding specific end results. For instance, “I am going to the gym to stay strong and fit” vs. “I am going to the gym to avoid heart disease and bone loss.” Approach targets set you up for a positive affirmation, whereas avoidance targets have been shown to lead to anxiety, decreased self-confidence and personal control, and less satisfaction while pursuing targets. Think about this as focusing on what you do want rather than what you don’t.
  4. Be flexible with the outcome. Those who adjust their targets and desired outcome to changing circumstances report better mental health and well-being. You can keep your eye on a positive outcome, but be open to changing your targets as necessary—some just require flexibility.
  5. Believing you will prevail. Our fear of failure is often less about our ability to execute, and more about the consequences if we don’t achieve our targets. Consequences may include feelings of embarrassment or inadequacy, losing influence, or disappointing others. However, we can change this by identifying which consequences we’re most afraid of, and then building skills to help manage those consequences. Ultimately, it’s not about wishing for a specific, positive outcome, but about feeling confident that we can handle the consequences that come along with our actions.

Managing fear and accepting the consequences of failure are important to personal growth and transformation. No one succeeds all the time. As Winston Churchill famously said, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Persevering in the face of fear is what it means to be strong. Persevering after success has been achieved, though, is what makes you magical.

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