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 inthe way of your life. For example…A few years ago I was installing an AC inmy living room. I opened the window and sawa massive swarm of bees. I panicked, ran into my bedroom, slammed thedoor shut, and grabbed some towels to sealthe space under the door because I thoughtthe bees were going to come after me. I’mnot allergic to bees, but I believed somethingbad was going to happen. I called my wife and begged her to come homeand save me. She did…but I was on edge fordays after that and I couldn’t bring myselfto 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 avoidmy phobia when my job is to treat other people’sphobias…This whole AC incident made me realized Ineeded to do something about my phobia. When you get anxious your urge is to avoida situation. While that makes you feel better,it keeps you from learning that if you stickwith a situation, your body will adapt andyour anxiety will come down on its own. Themore you expose yourself to anxiety, the lessanxiety you feel. This is the idea behindexposure therapy, the most effective treatmentfor anxiety disorders. Here’s how I applied exposure therapy tomy bee phobia. Step 1: Make an exposure plan. I started by making a fear hierarchy – listingall the situations that made me anxious andrating them from 0 to 100 — stuff like cartoonbees, videos of bees, being in a garden witha lot of flowers, all the way up to havinga bee crawl on my skin. Step 2: Pick a low starting point. I started my treatment with an exposure thatwas 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 starttoo high you might end up strengthening yourphobia. It’s like learning to ride a bike — thefirst 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 overagain. Once you get bored, THEN you move upin difficulty. I’ve spent a few months crossing thingsoff my hierarchy and I’m ready the facereal bees. My wife found a patch of flowerswith lotsofbees nearby. So…let’s goface my fear.