Is fear or anxiety troubling you? Did you know that in America, over 40 million people suffer from debilitating anxiety every year? There are, of course, different degrees of anxiety. Practically all people get anxious when they are attempting something new. Many people feel great anxiety if they have to give a speech or talk in front of other people. People may experience various types of phobias, such as fear of heights or flying, or fear of spiders or snakes, etc. However, there are others who are anxious much of the time. Anxiety blocks our joy and causes a great deal of distress.
Dr. Dawn Huebner told an interesting story about her son who had extreme anxiety when he was young. Her son was afraid of bees, had fears of getting splinters if near wood, and had other phobias as well, which were making his life miserable. It finally got so bad that his mother decided to take him to see a therapist. Initially, she saw a Freudian psychologist, whose suggestions made no sense to her. She decided to research the area and found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tended to be most successful for people suffering from anxiety.
She decided to use this type of therapy with her son. She later admitted that her implementation did not exactly follow the Cognitive Behavioral format or procedures. Her son loved to play with Legos and spent a great deal of time playing with them. His anxiety of bee stings had gone so far that he would not go outside and play in the backyard. Dr. Huebner told her son that she was sure he would not get stung by a bee if he went outside to play, but if he did get stung, she would give him ten dollars, which he could use to buy more Legos. The father went further and stated that if his son got stung by a bee, he would give the son twenty dollars. The son decided to go outside to play. However, within six minutes he did get stung by a bee.
As unfortunate as this was, the son realized that it was not the end of the world, and became more willing to go outside in the future. He did, eventually, overcome his fear of bees. After further research, Dr. Huebner realized she had made two mistakes. First, she should not have “bribed” her son, and second, she should never have assured him that he would not get stung by a bee, for there was no way she could be certain this would be the case. She stated that a better way to do this would have been to give her son some reward (such as Legos) after he had gone outside. Even though she did not use the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in the prescribed manner, it still proved successful and her son got over his fears.
Dr. Huebner explains that with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy there are two different ways to deal with fear. One method is called, “flooding,” and the other is called, “systematic desensitization.” She used the analogy of going into a swimming pool with cold water. One can jump in all at once and after a little while get used to the water, or, one could first put a foot in and then a leg and continue submerging more and more of the body until the person was fully in the pool.
If one had a fear of spiders, for example, flooding might entail sticking one’s hand in a container of spiders. Systematic Desensitization would involve incremental steps, such as looking at a picture of a spider, looking at a real spider, going into a room where there was a spider, getting closer to it, etc., until one might actually touch a spider. This method is much more gradual. Often, visualization is used instead of actually going through the steps. Flooding is a faster method of overcoming the fear but it may be too overwhelming for the individual to handle. The other method takes longer but it is much less “jarring” to the person.
There are, of course, other methods of dealing with anxiety, such as the use of hypnosis. Some therapists actually combine both methods, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy along with hypnosis, to help the client achieve even better results.
If you are having a problem with anxiety and would like to try one or both of the above-mentioned treatments for anxiety, please call Phil Rosenbaum at 248-688-6469. Both methods have been shown to be very effective in reducing or eliminating anxiety.