Exposure therapy is a type of mental health therapy designed to help people confront their fears. In other words, this type of therapy helps people face things or situations that cause fear or anxiety. It is an excellent option for treating various mental health conditions like phobia, post-traumatic disorder, etc.
For example, you can benefit from exposure therapy if you fear riding in a boat or flying in a plane. While you can manage your fears by avoiding these situations, your anxiety and fear may worsen in the long term. In such a case, seeking exposure therapy can help break the fear of avoidance and manage your worries. It enables you to overcome your fears when you encounter your source fears to prevent severe anxiety.
Exposure therapy lets you get comfortable with uncomfortable things instead of avoiding them.
As stated, exposure therapy can help treat various mental health conditions, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
In addition, exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP), a unique form of exposure therapy, can help manage obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). ERP is a great therapy technique that helps people face their fears or uncomfortable situations and reduce anxiety.
In Vivo Exposure
This type of therapy involves facing a feared situation or object in real-time. For example, suppose you fear riding on a lift. In that case, your therapist may encourage you to ride in it, or if you fear addressing a large gathering, they may encourage you to address an audience to fight social anxiety disorder.
With this type of therapy, your therapist will expose you to your fearful situations or objects to help you become comfortable with those situations.
As the name indicates, imaginal exposure involves imagining that a situation or something you fear so much is happening. For example, if you have a phobia of heights, your therapist might not necessarily ask you to climb a height as an exposure.
Instead, they may ask you to imagine and write down what you imagine would happen when at a higher height. After that, your therapist might ask you to repeatedly rethink your experience when on a height. In the end, this might help reduce the feelings of fear that come with such situations.
Virtual Reality Exposure
This type of exposure is a good alternative to in vivo exposure. Virtual reality exposure offers an excellent way to confront your fears through virtual reality. For example, if you have a phobia of riding on an elevator, your therapist could provide videos of people riding on a lift safely to help reduce your fears.
This type of therapy is excellent for someone with panic attacks. It involves triggering a physical sensation to show someone that a situation is harmless. For example, your therapist can ask you to run some distance to speed up your heart to learn you are not in a dangerous situation.
How Exposure Therapy Works
Now that you know the different types of exposure therapy, let’s look at how it helps. Below are various ways how this therapy works:
- Extinction: Exposures can weaken negative associations with feared objects and situations. In other words, it can help unlearn negative or dangerous outcomes with a feared object or situation.
- Habituation: When repeatedly exposed to a feared object or situation, the fear or anxiety associated with such situations will decrease.
- Self-efficacy: Exposure helps patients learn to confront their fears and manage anxiety.
- Emotional processing: Exposure helps anxiety patients create more realistic beliefs about objects or situations. This enables them to become more comfortable when facing a fearful situation.
What Does Research Say About Exposure Therapy?
Various studies prove that exposure therapy effectively treats various mental health issues. For example, a 2015 study showed that exposure therapy could help treat various anxiety disorders like panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, and OCD.
Also, a 2016 research review showed that this type of therapy is among the proven treatments for PTSD. In addition, a 2020 study shows that in vivo exposure is among the most effective treatments for phobias, with an 80 to 90% success rate in some studies.
Another 2020 study showed that exposure therapy is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders in children.
As you see, exposure therapy is an evidence-based solution for anxiety disorders in both adults and children of all genders. Apart from the research studies highlighted above, other studies prove exposure therapy is an effective solution for anxiety disorders. In fact, another 2016 research showed that exposure therapy has immediate and long-term benefits for people with phobias. The secret lies in choosing the best exposure therapy specialist to help handle your situation.
Are There Any Drawbacks to This Treatment Option?
Exposure is not meant to bring you misery but to make you more comfortable when facing uncomfortable situations. However, like other forms of treatment, exposure therapy has some drawbacks.
One of them is that the symptoms can return after some time, especially if the patient didn’t complete the treatment cycle. Despite these drawbacks, exposure therapy is a viable treatment solution for anxiety disorders.
Find the Right Specialist for Exposure Therapy
The first step to getting therapy is to connect with a qualified therapist or psychologist. Without the help of a qualified therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, you are unlikely to get the best results from this treatment option.
As such, start your research by looking at reputable therapist resources. LGBTQ and ALL understand this and have provided great therapist resources to help you choose the best therapist near you for your specific condition. Visit our therapist resource today for the best mental health specialist for your situation at any time, no matter your location. Whether you’re looking for psychologists for kids or gender confirmation therapists, LGBTQ and All got you covered.