How to use exposure therapy to overcome phobias

Beeeeeeeeees! Oh my gosh. . . . We all have fears. But when does a fear become a phobia?It happens when your fear begins to get in
the way of your life. For example…A few years ago I was installing an AC in
my living room. I opened the window and sawa massive swarm of bees. I panicked, ran into my bedroom, slammed the
door shut, and grabbed some towels to sealthe space under the door because I thought
the bees were going to come after me. I’mnot allergic to bees, but I believed something
bad was going to happen. I called my wife and begged her to come home
and save me. She did…but I was on edge fordays after that and I couldn’t bring myself
to open the window. My wife ended up installingthat AC on her own while I was away from work. Kinda ironic — me escaping to work to avoid
my phobia when my job is to treat other people’sphobias…This whole AC incident made me realized I
needed to do something about my phobia. When you get anxious your urge is to avoid
a situation. While that makes you feel better,it keeps you from learning that if you stick
with a situation, your body will adapt andyour anxiety will come down on its own. The
more you expose yourself to anxiety, the lessanxiety you feel. This is the idea behind
exposure therapy, the most effective treatmentfor anxiety disorders. Here’s how I applied exposure therapy to
my bee phobia. Step 1: Make an exposure plan. I started by making a fear hierarchy – listing
all the situations that made me anxious andrating them from 0 to 100 — stuff like cartoon
bees, videos of bees, being in a garden witha lot of flowers, all the way up to having
a bee crawl on my skin. Step 2: Pick a low starting point. I started my treatment with an exposure that
was one step above what I could already do— watch a documentary about bees. This where most people mess up exposure therapy
– they start REALLY high, the exposure isoverwhelming, and they give up. If you start
too high you might end up strengthening yourphobia. It’s like learning to ride a bike — the
first thing you do is get used to trainingwheels, not extreme mountain biking. Step 3: Get bored of your exposures. Exposures work when you do them over and over
again. Once you get bored, THEN you move upin difficulty. I’ve spent a few months crossing things
off my hierarchy and I’m ready the facereal bees. My wife found a patch of flowers
with lotsofbees nearby. So…let’s goface
my fear.

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