15695260 tn?1549593113

What is Exposure Therapy and can it help with Anxiety and Panic Disorder?

There are many choices of types of therapy to have for anxiety, phobias, ptsd, ocd and panic disorder.  One that can be offered is something called "Exposure Therapy".  What exactly is this?  Someone under the anxiety umbrella of these disorders may avoid completely or partially certain parts of life because it triggers their anxiety.  Avoidance is a very common coping mechanism.  With exposure therapy which is a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT, a mental health professional will create a safe environment for their patient to begin to have brief encounters with their triggers.  They can work through the physiological and psychological responses under this professional supervision with the hopeful outcome being the ability to endure and move past it so that they are not inhibited by their mental health  from living the life they want.
this has been proven to be a very effective therapy in patient care.


Has anyone participated in the CBT treatment of exposure therapy?
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Yes.  No success, though.  Exposure therapy isn't a therapy, it's a part of CBT.  With CBT, first you learn what they believe it is you're doing with your thinking and why your thinking isn't accurate, then they teach affirmations and relaxation techniques, and then you start doing the things you've become phobic about doing the easiest first.  You keep repeating it until, when it works, the phobia is no longer there and then y0u move on to the next one.  As for the supportive environment, that depends on who you do your CBT with.  In some cases, a licensed social worker will go out with you.  In most cases, there's just a psychologist who usually won't go out with you very much if at all.  Ultimately, you're going to have to do it by yourself for it to take hold.  Does it work?  According to NIH studies, about 30% of the time, which for mental health treatment is as good as it gets.  Medication also works about that much, with the difference being that if CBT works, you're better, while meds only tamp down symptoms as there are no known chemical causes for the problem to target directly.  They might exist, but nobody's found them yet.  But this shouldn't dishearten anyone, as there are a lot of different meds and a lot of different therapists, and it only takes one to work so you can keep trying different ones if at first it doesn't take hold.  I seem to be therapy resistant, but maybe I just never found the right one, I don't know.  CBT isn't all done the exact same way, but it can be studied in a way no other form of talk therapy can be because there are protocols that are the same for everyone and this form of therapy isn't much interested in why you got anxious in the first place.  
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I'm sorry to hear that CBT and exposure therapy didn't work for you.  I do agree, however, that for others suffering some of these anxiety disorders and panic attacks that finding the right approach for that particular person is a unique experience and this is one form of treatment to consider to help.
By the way, there's a true story about a famous weatherman who had to cross a long bridge every day to get to work and became phobic about doing it.  His personal form of exposure therapy was to drink a six pack of beer and drive back and forth across the bridge until he wasn't phobic about it anymore.  It worked, and he became quite well known and a celebrity.  There are musicians and actors who cope this way.  Not to be recommended, but it does show that if you can learn to demystify your phobias and relax enough the brain can learn not to be phobic about this stuff anymore.  Never happened with me, but it has helped a lot of people.
And let me add, as I just noticed you responded already -- Hi, Emily, you must be on now too -- I personally, for whatever it's worth, think everyone should try CBT who has phobias and keep trying even if they do end up with medication.  What I did and think a lot of people do is when the meds do what they do, and for me they only worked to prevent more phobias, they didn't help get rid of the ones I already had, is at that point they stop seeking therapy.  But the long-term use of meds can become a problem or stop working and I really encourage everyone to keep looking for that therapist who works hard enough to help you.  What doesn't work particularly well, I think,are the sit and chat therapists.  This can go on forever and while it can seem reassuring, I don't think it helps with phobias.
A little more.  What I mean by sit and chat therapists is, that's pretty much what you do.  They really don't have a plan or a toolbox.  There is a theory in psychology that this works, but I doubt it does.  No way to know, this type can't be studied double blinded as it's different for each patient and what they talk about.  The best therapist I ever had was a guy who has a huge toolbox.  We started with exposure therapy, also called flooding.  That didn't work, so he filmed me driving and told me I looked as calm as can be.  I explained what I was doing that I wouldn't have been doing if I hadn't been anxious.  This didn't work, so we moved on to old fashioned trying to figure out if something happened to me when I was young that caused it.  He though there might be something, but nothing changed, so we moved on to hypnosis.  Unfortunately, at that point he died quite young of a rare blood disorder, and I've never found another therapist who cared that much to learn so many different ways to try to help.  He also used a sliding scale, which is rare these days.  If you can find a therapist with a practical toolbox, who knows and has experience with CBT and other talk therapy, who knows hypnosis and relaxation techniques and visualization, etc., you get a lot of bites at the apple rather than one who has a form of therapy and is devoted to it and doesn't really know much about other ways of helping.  Just my two cents worth.
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