Everyone must have felt scared, but not everyone has a phobia. Phobias are feelings of fear of being excessive, extreme, uncontrolled, and unreasonable towards an object or situation that is actually not threatening or endangering lives. A fear can be said to be a phobia if it has been going on for more than 6 months and to cause disruption to daily activities. Phobias are included in psychological disorders that can be treated with CBT therapy. One of the CBT methods for dealing with phobias is desensitization therapy. What does the therapy work like, and is it really effective?
First understand why someone can have a phobia
Unlike general fear such as fear of being hit by a car or fear of not graduating from college, phobias are usually triggered by one specific thing - can be an object or situation. Examples of the most common phobias are claustrophobia (fear of closed narrow spaces) and acrophobia (fear of heights).
Phobias are also not like ordinary fears that only last for a while and will subside as soon as the trigger disappears. The fear raised by phobias can last long to have a damaging impact, both physically and mentally. In fact, just thinking about objects or situations that are feared can make you paler, nauseous, sweat cold, panic, tremble, daze (disorientation), and excessive anxiety.
So, someone who has a phobia will try as hard as possible to do all kinds of ways to avoid triggering his fear. For example, someone who has a germs phobia (mysophobia) will avoid physical contact such as shaking hands with someone else or holding the elevator button. They will also do various ways to cleanse the body and the environment around them from bacterial contamination, and keep it clean.
Until now, experts have not found the exact cause of phobias. Genetic, medical history, and environmental factors together can influence a person's tendency to experience a phobia. Children who have close relatives with anxiety disorder have the possibility to experience phobias.
A traumatic event can also cause phobias, such as almost drowning can cause a phobia of water. Never been confined in a narrow room or been in extreme height for a long time; being attacked and bitten by an animal can also cause phobias. In addition, phobias can also occur after a person experiences trauma to the brain.
Desensitization technique to overcome phobias
The desensitization technique is also known as the exposure technique. As the name suggests, you will be intentionally exposed to the alias of the trigger of your phobia. In principle, if you are reunited with the same trigger of fear, your body will respond to that "terror" by releasing stress hormones that cause symptoms of phobia.
Experts argue that exposure to a trigger gradually and continuously over time can reduce a person's sensitivity to these triggers. Maybe it's as simple as when you have to /are only allowed to eat one type of menu every day. After a while you will be resigned even though feeling sick or bored to death, because there is no other choice.
What is the procedure like?
Desensitization therapy is part of CBT therapy carried out under the supervision of a psychiatrist. CBT therapy aims to change the process of your mindset and behavior to be better.
After undergoing an initial counseling session to find out basic information about your background, habits and routines, to things about your phobia (starting from when, what triggered it, what symptoms arise, how you deal with it, etc.) Your psychiatrist will then teach you relaxation techniques to keep you calm when dealing with triggers for phobias, such as deep breathing, self-hypnosis, and meditation to clear your mind.
Next, you will be asked to score a number from lowest to highest to find out how scared you are of the trigger of the phobia. This score is also provided with different types of triggers, so that the results are more accurate. For example, thinking about spiders (if you are a spider phobia, aka arachnophobia) makes you feel scared by a score of 10 while looking at spider photos makes your fear worth 25, and if you look directly from a distance the score becomes 50. there are spiders crawling on your arms, your level of fear will reach 100.
After making the score, the psychiatrist will slowly deliberately expose you to the trigger of the phobia. Starting from the lowest, which is asking you to imagine a spider. As you imagine that, it will guide you to begin the relaxation techniques taught. After you get used to paying for spiders without overreacting, then you will "level up". Next the psychiatrist will ask you to see a photo of a spider, and so on until you are dealing directly with a living spider.
Every time you will "level up", the psychiatrist will first assess your progress before continuing therapy to the next level until finally you feel no longer afraid and free of phobias.
Is this method safe and effective?
But of course overcoming phobias in this way cannot be arbitrary. Before a psychiatrist applies desensitivity therapy, you will usually be asked to tell about a problem or difficulty that is being faced to find out the possible causes. After that, you and the therapist will determine what changes you want to realize and what goals you want to achieve.
In the end, behavioral and cognitive therapy can help you realize that the situation, objects or animals that you fear has not been as bad as imagined and does not endanger lives.
This technique needs to be done several times, until you finally get used to it and don't get scared anymore. Based on the research conducted, the use of this technique proved effective enough to help overcome phobias.
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