Book Definition: A behavioral therapy technique in which anxiety is extinguished by exposing the patient to an anxiety-provoking stimulus.

In Your Own Words


  • When patients are to imagine a fearful situation, later they may move form just imagining it to being exposed to it.
  • A therapy that involves overcoming phobias by systematically increasing a patient's contact with the thing that they fear.
  • Gradually Exposing the patient to their phobia in order to diminish it
  • The patient receiving therapy faces their irrational fears and/or witnesses someone else face that fear.
  • Exposing the patient in order for them to overcome their fear.
  • Slowly working with a patient through multiple stages until the anxiety is gone
  • Being presented directly with the scary stimulus.

Examples/Functions


  • Pam has agoraphobia; her therapist takes her to Grand Central Station each therapy session they have for gradually increasing amounts of time.
  • Someone's scared of heights so they're forced to imagine standing on a high building, then shown pictures of tall buildings, then eventually brought to the top of a tall building, until they are no longer afraid of heights.
  • Someone who has a fear of blood is shown gruesome pictures, and watches other people get blood drawn to nullify the fear.
  • This can be divided into a hierarchy of fears for example (a fear of spiders) having the first step be just a picture of a spider while the last step being that you actually confront a spider and even hold it.
  • A person who is afraid of sleeping without a nightlight, they can first identify why the person doesn't like the dark and can't sleep without a nightlight, then imagine being in the dark, and then try sleeping without a nightlight
Pro
Con
Helps understand the level of fear
Only modifies the problem,
it doesn't go into the depth of it
Can be relatively quickly
Problem can come back


Additional Resources


  1. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-systematic-desensitization.html