An Overview of Exposure Therapy and its Benefits

Exposure therapy is a particular branch of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that is used to reduce responses based on phobias, anxiety and fear. In this process, the patient is trained to be less sensitive about a subject by slowly exposing him to the situation or object that makes him feel triggered, anxious or scared. People who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) also find this form of therapy very beneficial. OCD is mostly treated with the use of exposure and response prevention therapy, commonly known as ERP which is a particular form of exposure therapy.


Which conditions are treated with exposure therapy?

Exposure therapy is beneficial for all kinds of anxiety disorders. It can be used for a wide range of conditions, some of which include:

  • Social anxiety disorder: Some people feel extreme anxiety in social situations which causes fear, uneasiness and an inability to function like they do in other normal settings. This is also known as social phobia and exposure therapy can be used to manage this.
  • Phobias: Sometimes, a person may be deeply scared of airplane rides, standing on a high rooftop and staring down while leaning against the railing, looking at a particular color and so on. This kind of anxiety disorder may result from phobias and they remain persistent and cause an excessive amount of fear towards a specific kind of situation or object. With ERP, these phobias can become less intense over time and then in some cases they may be cured as well.
  • PTSD: When someone experiences or witnesses a horrifying event that leaves a deep impact on their mind, they may suffer from severe and prolonged anxiety that affects their daily lifestyle and routine work. Exposure therapy can help a lot in case of this kind of anxiety disorder.
  • OCD: Obsessive-compulsive disorder leads to irrational thoughts and obsessive fear that results in compulsive behavior.

How is exposure therapy beneficial for the treatment of OCD?

To treat patients suffering from OCD, exposure and response prevention therapy can act as an effective tool. People are asked to face what triggers them or causes fear in their minds without following the habitual compulsions that they generally do. They receive a lot of support from their therapist and learn how to form a different relationship with their obsessions and thoughts that disrupt their mental peace. This is practiced gradually and repeatedly. Over the sessions, individuals feel reduced anxiety when they confront challenging situations and specific triggers without turning toward their pattern of compulsive behavior. They learn lessons that they did not expect and it replaces the former learning that they were familiar with so far. Sometimes exposure therapy helps individuals to go back to a meaningful life and remember their values and respirations again.

What are the various kinds of exposure therapy?

A few types of exposure therapy have been discussed below:

  • In vivo exposure: This is based on confronting your object or situation of fear. For example, you may be asked to interact with an insect that you have excessively feared in life.
  • Imaginal exposure: This involves a situation or object that you imagine vividly. If you are a person who is scared of the color blue, you may be asked to picture being in a room with a blue color shirt on the couch.
  • Virtual reality exposure: In certain cases, it may be too challenging to explore the object or situation of fear in real life. This is where virtual reality technology comes to aid. For instance, if you are scared of flying in an airplane, you may be asked to use a flight simulator to experience your cause of fear.

These therapeutic techniques help you to be exposed to your root cause of fear, anxiety, spiraling negative thoughts and compulsive behavioral tendencies. They open a gate to embrace new perspectives and gain insightful understanding to foster positivity and growth in your life.

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