Fighting Fear With Exposure Therapy

Fighting Fear With Exposure Therapy

Phobias are often minor.  In some cases, though, they cause severe problems in a person’s life because the fear is so intense. When this happens, it’s essential to seek help to overcome it. One common way to treat fears and phobias is something called exposure therapy.

What Is Exposure Therapy?

Exposure therapy has been used successfully in many cases of extreme phobias because it works with the brain to erase the fear. It involves exposing a person to the thing they fear in a controlled environment with professional guidance. This basically means that if you were afraid of spiders, your therapist or doctor would set up a situation where you were exposed to spiders. However, the professional would be in complete control over the situation and able to help you cope with it. Having this professional guidance is important and exposure therapy shouldn’t be attempted without it.

How It Works

This type of therapy works because it retrains the part of the brain that responds to phobias, called the amygdala.  The amygdala learns how to respond based upon repetition and association. It doesn’t work based on logic, so you can’t simply tell yourself not to be afraid and fix a phobia. You have to expose yourself to whatever it is you fear and not respond in your normal way, such as running away. Eventually, your amygdala will learn this new reaction to overcome the fear.

Getting Started With Mild Exposure

While your therapist or doctor will develop an exposure therapy plan, you may consider asking if you can start off using movies as a way get exposure to your phobia. Movies are a rather mild way to expose yourself to a stimulus and start retraining the amygdala. For example, if you have a germ phobia, called mysophobia, you could watch the 1971 film, The Andromeda Strain, which is about a virus outbreak. According to, ten percent of Americans have a phobia. If you are one of them, therapy accompanied by even mild exposure therapy, such as watching a movie based on your fear, can be beneficial.

Being stricken with a crippling fear of something can be awful. While overcoming a phobia is not an easy process, it can be done, so those serious about removing a fear from their life should discuss exposure therapy with their some type of therapist or doctor.

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