Anxiety and Treatment of Fear

  • Have you ever been so afraid of something that you felt paralyzed?
  • Have you ever thought that your fears were irrational yet still felt so real?
  • Do you feel like sometimes you must be the only person out there who has this kind of fear?

You aren’t alone and relief is closer than you may think. Some of the most common fears are the ones that bring clients to therapy. These fears can include, but are not limited to, fear in social situations, fears related to food and consumption or choking, fear of public speaking, and fear of judgment, which can be in a variety of situations. In addition many of the clients who come to therapy can have traits that are obsessive and/or compulsive and are significantly impairing their lives. Compared to traditional psychotherapy, in which sessions are spent merely discussing the client’s problems, when it comes to debilitating fear and anxiety Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) tends to be more proactive and can provide relief rather quickly. Working together, we (myself and the client) take active roles in assessing the problem, create a detailed list of symptoms and create concrete, active steps towards alleviating these symptoms. We work on identifying and exploring the connection between thoughts and feelings and behaviors. In therapy we actively problem solve individual situations and work on identifying what is both correct and faulty in the way a person thinks and what is changeable in order to feel better. Often “feeling” better is the first step in getting better. Ultimately identifying your beliefs about yourself is key when making permanent lasting change.

In addition, through the process of “Exposure and Response Prevention” (ERP), you (the client) during treatment sessions will experience exposure to your fears, starting with the least anxiety-provoking items from the symptom list that we create. Regular “homework” assignments are given so that you can continue to challenge symptoms between therapy sessions. These homework assignments are specifically designed for each individual client, and are an essential part of treatment for significant and debilitating anxiety conditions, including Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety, and Specific Phobias. These “homework” assignments are particularly valuable in helping clients challenge certain symptoms that occur at home, at work, or at school, and that cannot easily be duplicated in the therapy office.

Additionally, we utilize “imaginal exposure,” which involves using short stories based on the client’s fears which allows you (the client) to “imagine” the most fearful situation in your mind and then practice learned relaxation exercises to reduce the fear and anxiety and make the feeling more manageable. Over time, you will become de-sensitized to previously anxiety-provoking situations and thoughts, and any obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors are either eliminated, or significantly reduced in frequency and magnitude.

In addition to traditional psychotherapy, and CBT I also incorporate Mindfulness-Based Therapy in the treatment of anxiety related conditions. The primary goal of Mindfulness-Based therapy is to learn to non-judgmentally accept uncomfortable psychological experiences. From a mindfulness perspective, much of our psychological distress is the result of trying to control and eliminate the discomfort of unwanted thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. In other words, our discomfort is not the problem – our attempt to control and eliminate our discomfort is the problem. For an individual with OCD or a related anxiety-based condition, the ultimate goal of mindfulness is to develop the ability to more willingly experience the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges, without responding with compulsions, avoidance behaviors, reassurance seeking, and/or mental rituals.

During the therapeutic process you the client will gradually challenge all of your symptoms, and learn new, more productive methods of coping with anxiety. Feel better and get better!


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