Some readers may wonder why we titled our blog Anxiety and OCD Exposed.

The term Exposed brings up a variety of possible meanings:

  • toxic waste dump found in desert

  • the latest movie star scandal
  • the electric wire without a cover
  • oops; make sure your pants are zipped up
  • to bitter cold weather…brrrr
  • another political disgrace
  • uncovered patio furniture
  • a treatment for anxiety and OCD

Yes, mental health professionals treat anxiety and OCD through a method called exposure. Basically exposure means that you face your fears. In other words, you are exposed to what makes you anxious or feel distressed about. It sounds pretty simple and in a few cases it is. However, most people need a carefully planned exposure that’s carried out in graded steps over a period of time.

Here’s an example of exposure. Say you have a youngster who’s terrified of water. Common sense (although not everyone has that attribute) would say to most folks—don’t throw the kid in the ocean. A sensible approach might involve starting with a small backyard swimming pool with an inch or so of water. Then you might add another inch or two of water the next day. After much playing and splashing, you’d probably take the child to a bigger pool, or a beach at a calm lake. Swimming lessons might take place weeks later or even the following year. Finally you might consider a trip to the ocean with lots of supervision—that’s how an exposure would typically work.

Along the way of experiencing exposure, revisions are often made to the exposure plan. For example, if the child with fears of water balks at the swimming pool, you could start with a bit of warm water in the bath. At the ocean, play could begin in the sand with exposure to the water after a few days of getting used to the noise of the surf.

Okay, we’ve introduced you to the concept. Look for much more information in future blogs. For now, take a few minutes and think about things in your life that could benefit from a little more exposure.

Treating OCD usually includes an additional element called response prevention. But we’ll discuss what that’s all about in future blogs too.

 


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    Last reviewed: 25 Feb 2009

APA Reference
Smith, L. (2009). Exposed. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 24, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety/2009/02/exposed/

 

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Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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