Phobia Treatments – Desensitization

Phobias are treated in many different ways. Some people favour a Flooding technique where someone is subjected to what they are phobic of until their symptoms subside and they learn, the hard way, that there is no danger and therefore nothing to be afraid of. Another popular treatment is desensitization, either with or without a Cognitive element (where faulty negative thinking is challenged).

Of course the alternative healthcare brigade come out in force for phobia treatments, with everything from EFT to Zero Balancing being touted as a instantaneous miracle cure.

Desensitization is the most common approach however, so let’s examine it in more detail. The theory goes that for some reason (and in desensitization the reason for the initial fear, the cause of the phobia, is not considered at all important or relevant) a fear response has become attached to an object or situation. They theory states that if the subject can be persuaded to confront that situation and accept that there is no danger then they will remove that fear response, and no longer have the phobia.


The good news is that it does work well for lots of people, especially those with non-complex phobias, ie phobias of specific things like spiders or colours or types of weather. The bad news is that it doesn’t treat any hidden causes or deal very well with secondary gain – so people with more complex phobias, like agoraphobia, may find that it causes their condition to change rather than improve – perhaps they will get back some of their mobility but not actually get over their anxiety disorder which has its roots in negative self image or trapped emotion. I should point out that many modern psychologists don’t believe in repressed emotion as causes for anxiety or phobias and see exposure with cognitive therapy as the only worthwhile treatment for phobias and anxiety disorders.


The problem is, some people have phobias eve thought they never had a bad experience which attached a negative feeling to the situation. For example there are people who have never had trouble flying, but suddenly develop intense fear before a flight out of the blue. One wonders if this could be a case of someone attaching a negative experience from the past to a current event. If this is the case then that would seem to lend credence to the belief that we need to deal in some way with negativity from the past.

One Reply to “Phobia Treatments – Desensitization”

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