Exposure therapy does work.
Exposure therapy really works. It can however be unintentionally limited by a number of thinking and behavioural styles we exhibit.
The objective with exposure is to help you experience your feared situations a number of times until your mind begings to send an "I AM SAFE" signal to your mind's threat protection system (i.e. the system responsible for activating your fight or flight responce).
(Sorry to those who know this stuff already)
The first key here is " practice for a number of times." Not once, not twice, but maybe up to 20- 30 times if need be.
The reason for the repeated practice is embended in the nature of how we learn as humans. The thoughts or actions we repeat the most tend to be easilly assessible to us.
As a result we repeat numbers over and over in order to commit them to memmory. In the same way any behaviour that is repeated over and over becomes a habbit.
Unfortunately our thoughts and behaviour that are connected to situations we fear tend to have been repeated over and over across many months or years. So whenever we come across those fears, we are naturally directed to deal with them in the ineffective way we have always dealth with them.
The problem with this is that Our aprroach to managing our fear tend to reinforce the fears we have by compiling more evidence that we are vulnerabile to those fears in our minds.
So to start to break the chain of anxiety, we have to change our behaviour. If I am avoiding something, There is no way I will find out if that thing is safe without me being around that thing.
Each experience of exposure can be seen as an opportunity to place a chip of evidence (that I am safe)on the other side of the balancing scale, gradually outweighing the evidence (that I am not safe) which has been compiled over the years.
I started this post by talking about the uninteded limitations we can place on exposure. I'll just name a few for now, and maybe expand on them if anyone is interested to know.
1. Self focus. Focussing too much on yourself or on what you are doing stops you from noticing what other people are doing.
2. Looking down or away from people
3. worrying too much about doing the exposure
4. overthinking the exposure after it has been done (especially when there has been too much self focus during the exposure)
5. Practicing any coping strategy whilst doing the exposure disrupts it's effectiveness
Ok I'll stop for now. Hope this was helpful