Exposure therapy is described as any treatment that supports the systematic confrontation of frightened stimuli, which can be external (e.g., feared items, activities, or circumstances) or internal (e.g., feared objects, activities, or situations). The goal of exposure treatment is to diminish the individual's frightened reaction to the stimuli. By doing so, the patient learns that the feared consequence does not always have to happen.
During exposure therapy, patients are encouraged to face their fears in a safe environment, where they can observe the effect that exposure has on their anxiety levels. They are then given the opportunity to repeat this process with decreased anxiety. Exposure therapy for fear of death involves repeatedly confronting scenarios that might cause death and learning that they do not necessarily lead to such outcomes. For example, a patient who fears flying may be asked to look at pictures of airports and cities during a session without getting anxious. Once she is comfortable with this activity, she can be asked to think about what would happen if her plane crashed while flying over water. She would be hurt, but probably not killed, because air crashes are rarely fatal.
After sufficient exposures, patients are given opportunities to repeat these activities outside of the clinic setting. For example, a patient who fears flying could go as far as taking a flight lesson once per week for several months before stopping altogether.
In conclusion, exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for many types of anxiety disorders.
Exposure therapy is a sort of behavioral treatment that may be used to treat a wide range of phobias and anxiety disorders. A person will face their fears and anxieties in a secure context, either in their imagination or in a real-life scenario, with the help of a therapist.
Exposure therapy is a well-established treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in which the patient is required to focus on and explain the specifics of a traumatic incident. Methods of exposure involve confronting the subject with frightening, yet realistically safe, stimuli that are repeated until anxiety is lessened. The goal is for the patient to learn that they can manage fear and anxiety sensations successfully.
In addition to reducing symptoms of anxiety, exposure therapy has been shown to help patients process psychological trauma. This is important because the more a person resists or avoids thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma, the more damage can be done to their mental health. By learning how to deal with these emotions "head on," as it were, exposure therapy helps patients regain control of their lives.
It should also be noted that exposure therapy is not recommended for people who suffer from acute stress disorder instead. Acute stress disorder is a temporary condition that can arise after experiencing a sudden intense stress factor such as hearing about an accident involving a friend or family member. Exposure therapy would be ineffective for someone with acute stress disorder since it is meant for longer term issues such as those related to trauma.
People who experience chronic stress disorder should see a doctor before starting an exposure therapy program. Those who have chronic stress disorder but do not seek medical attention may be at risk for developing serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.