Psych Central


We have been writing this blog for a few years. When we started, we decided to call the blog Anxiety and OCD Exposed. It’s been a long time since we have discussed why we decided on that title so we thought that new readers might want some explanation.

The term “exposed” may bring up a lot of different thoughts such as:

• Finding out that a politician was cheating on his wife
• Discovering a dumping ground of toxic waste
• The feeling of your hands when you forget to wear gloves in cold weather
• A politician taking opposite positions in the same campaign
• Not noticing the piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe
• The most effective treatment for anxiety and OCD

Research says that overall the best treatment for anxiety and OCD is a method called exposure. When people are afraid or anxious about something, they tend to avoid it. The more they avoid what they fear, the more fearful they become.

Exposure helps people face their fears in a gradual way. Most people find that after being exposed to their fear or OCD triggers, over a period of time, their anxiety decreases. The goal of exposure is not to eliminate all anxiety, but to make anxiety manageable.

Here’s an example of exposure. Say you have a 4 year old boy who’s terrified of dinosaurs. The irrational fear of dinosaurs is called ornithoscelidaphbia. Common sense (although not everyone has that attribute) would say to most folks—don’t take your kid to a scary movie (like Jurassic Park) about dinosaurs killing people. That might just make him run out of the movie screaming.

A more sensible approach might involve starting with a children’s book about dinosaurs. Read that book over and over until the child is no longer frightened. Then you might go to the dollar store and buy a packet of little dinosaurs. Hide them around and have the boy search for dinosaurs. Later, consider getting a bigger toy dinosaur. Then, after much play, take the child to a natural history museum to look at large dinosaurs. That’s how to get rid of ornithoscepidaphbia.

Exposure works very well for people with specific phobias and for people with OCD. Exposure can also work for folks with generalized anxiety and is the preferred treatment for those with posttraumatic stress disorder.

So this is a short intro to exposure. 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.

 


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    Last reviewed: 17 Feb 2012

APA Reference
Smith, L. (2012). Facing Fear. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 18, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety/2012/02/facing-fear/

 

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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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