When you were a child, did anyone ever say to you, “You stop fear by facing it down”? These days psychotherapy has worked through the desensitization process to facing the fears that have crippled clients. It takes courage and determination to accomplish this. And it works.
Someone, let's say Anita, has a terrible fear of driving on snow and ice because she was driving when she was involved in two separate car crashes during adverse weather conditions. Her children were in the vehicle with her on those occasions. She became so afraid that she can't leave the house when there are snowflakes in the air.
Reid Wilson, Ph.D., writes, “I discovered that there were a number of similarities between the way people handle chronic pain and the way they handle anxiety symptoms.” His article, “The Anxiety Game: It's Rigged So Let's Change the Rules,” appears in the January/February 2013 issue of Psychotherapy Networker magazine.
Wilson says that in 1986 a pair of therapists from Temple University, Edna Foa and Michael Kozak, “suggested that exposure therapy might extend to all anxiety disorders.” Their article was titled “Emotional Processing of Fear: Exposure to Corrective Information.”
“This paper,” Wilson says, “looked past the study of panic to the nature of fear itself.
“Foa and Kozak's theory was that people who develop an anxiety disorder hold onto distorted information about themselves or their environment, which causes them distress. The faulty information is contained within the strong threatening feelings that are associated with their specific fear...”
They believed the clients had to face their fears to overcome them through exposure to those fears. The principles involved in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) used to help clients suffering anxiety are:
• Anxiety arises from exaggerated threats the client thinks they won't be able to handle.
Resisting anxiety creates more anxiety.
• Confront the feared event.
So, if you are afraid of being enclosed in an elevator you would go into the elevator and face that fear. The client is urged to think in positive terms: “I can do this.” “I can handle my anxiety because I know my fears are exaggerated.” “The best way to cope with this is to confront the feared event.”
David Barlow is a psychologist at Boston University. He concluded from his work that “clients needed to learn to tolerate feeling profoundly unsafe.”
Wilson writes, “Clients enter treatment seeking to remove their doubt, to know for certain that events will turn out in the best possible way, and when they can't guarantee the outcome, they become more anxious and avoidant.”
Anxiety exists. It always will. The life skills toolbox should include a change in relationships with anxiety. The bottom line is that clients draw on personal courage and tackle the problem, determined to do whatever they have to do to overcome their fears. Anxiety and depression are reportedly the heaviest caseload for today's therapists. In the same issue of Psychotherapy Networker, David Burns, MD, an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine writes, “...negative thoughts triggered anxiety, but what caused the negative thoughts? What was it inside a person that made him or her so vulnerable to intense anxiety and insecurity?”
Dr. Burns discovered something he calls “hidden emotion technique.” Many who suffer severe anxiety and panic attacks are people pleasers who, “...most of them seemed to exhibit—beneath their panic attacks, anxieties and fears—phobias about conflict, anger or negative emotions of any kind...
“When anxiety prone individuals get feelings or urges that don't seem 'proper' or 'acceptable,' they sweep them under the rug without realizing they're doing this. Then they suddenly develop a phobia, a panic attack, or OCD symptoms and completely lose sight of the hidden problem or feeling that triggered the anxiety in the first place.”
Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs related to substance abuse and other mental health issues. For more information about anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, email@example.com.