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Understanding Systematic Desensitization for Anxiety Disorders

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Anxiety happens to everyone but the levels of impact may vary. As technology and science get advanced, we are able to better understand the problem and have a clearer idea on how we can control certain anxiety disorders. Desensitization has become one of the tools to avoid anxiety and to put our minds and body into a state of relaxation. Relaxation is the opposite state of anxiety and thus when we use techniques such as desensitization the situation will become easier and the cause of anxiety will be gone. Understanding how systemic desensitization works could help people getting anxious and how it can teach people to act in a way that is incompatible with anxiety.

The unlearning

Behavioral therapy expert and pioneer Joseph Wolpe developed systematic desensitization as a way to treat symptoms of anxiety and other phobias. The technique was based on the principles laid out by classical conditioning. In essence, it is unlearning the things that have been learned which are often the reason why people are feeling anxious. By using this technique, people are able to use other reactions that are incompatible to anxiety thus reducing it or even eliminating it. The goal of this process is to systemically desensitize the person from the cause of anxiety which can ultimately eliminate the feeling of stress.

The relaxation

At the onset, relaxation has been put forward as the feeling that is the opposite of anxiety. Ultimately, systemic desensitization will teach people feeling anxious how to re-channel their thoughts towards feelings that are incompatible to anxiety. That is why most of the effort in doing desensitization is geared towards learning how to relax. Using relaxation as a counter-measure has been proven to be effective in cutting down anxiety levels.

The hierarchy

The therapy aims to use relaxation as a substitute to the distress feeling as part of the process called counter conditioning. This is often done through the use of the hierarchy of fear. Controlled stimulus ranked from the most feared to the least one. The patient is subjected to learn to shrug away the least fearful and working up towards the most unpleasant as they go. Along the way, the patient is being taught relaxation techniques in order to counter their fears and anxiety. The patient does this as he moves on to the next stage in the hierarchy of fear.

The training

Patients often undergo training in realizing relaxation techniques. Often they are taught how to have control over breathing and muscle detensioning. The important factor, according to some studies, is the exposure to the fear that propels the anxiety levels. The training often lasts around four to six sessions as severe cases may need up to 12 sessions. The therapy is concluded if the patient is able to convert the anxiety into relaxation and thus gaining control over the stressful effects. The exposure to the anxious stimulus can be done in two ways: imagining the stimulus and actual exposure to the stimulus.

The visualization

Visualization is one of the frequently used relaxation techniques in systematic desensitization. By imagining oneself in a peaceful and stress-free place the patient can reach a state of mind that is free from anxiety, stress and even phobias. Focusing on this supposed happy place can help the mind to relax which is the counter effect of distress often felt when people are anxious or having soaring stress levels.

The muscle tension

There are certain anxiety disorders where the sufferers experience muscle tension quite often. In fact, when people are anxious they experience muscle tension to the point that it has become ordinary and treated as normal. There are sufferers that have forgotten what it is like to have a relaxed muscle. Using muscle relaxation techniques can help you to find relief or to gain control of the mind and ease the tension on the muscles.

Systemic desensitization has transformed countless lives and freed the mind from distress and towards relaxation. It is important that you reach out to a mental health professional and find out if this therapy is suitable to your needs and situation. Never self-medicate because it could lead to dire consequences if done incorrectly. Get over with your anxiety today by learning how to relax. It is also best to exhaust all natural ways of conquering your anxiety before you decide to take medicines.

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