Systematic Desentization as Behavioral Treatment for Phobic and Anxiety Disorders

Phobia and Anxiety

A Phobic Disorder is an intense, irrational, specific fear in response to an external object, activity, or situation. Phobia, from the Greek word, Phobos, meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”, is a type of an anxiety Disorder.

An Anxiety disorder is a chronic condition characterized by an excessive persistent of apprehension and fear of the unknown with physical symptoms such as palpilations, sweating, irritability, restlessness and other signs of stress. Anxiety disorders have a variety of biological and environmental causes.


Are you scared to get happy?

In Phobia, there is an intense and persistent fear or an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding despite the fear, usually a lot disproportional to the actual danger posted, in excess.

Anxiety has no stimulus while in a Phobia, a phobic stimulus—an object or situation must be present before it could be diagnosed. In assessing phobia and anxiety,  there is a fear that someone or something will harm them. The person may have a risk for social isolation and avoidance. There is also an irrational fear out of proportion to the actual danger. You should readily see that the person suffering a phobic disorder has a defensive coping mechanism with a high need to control self, others, and environment.

Phobias  help a person to control intensity of anxiety by providing specific object or situation to attach it to, which he can then avoid.

Below is a list of phobias:

  1. Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets. Fear of leaving a safe place.
  2. Acrophobia- fear of heights
  3. Claustrophobia – fear of having no escape and being closed in small spaces or rooms
  4. Mysophobia (commonly known as “germaphobia”) – pathological and irrational fear of germs.
  5. Aviophobia – fear of flying
  6. Brontophobia – fear of thunder and lightning
  7. Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
  8. Acousticophobia – fear of noise
  9. Polyphobia – fear of many things
  10. Pyrophobia – fear of fire
  11. Selaphobia – fear of flashing lights
  12. Odontophobia – fear of teeth and dental surgery
  13. Ornithophobia – fear of birds
  14. Gatophobia – fear of cats
  15. Gerophobia – fear of old people or of growing old
  16. Gynephobia – fear of women
  17. Botanophobia – fear of plants
  18. Insectophobia – fear of insects
  19. Menophobia – fear of menstruation
  20. Methyphobia – fear of alcohol, drinking alcohol or becoming an alcoholic
  21. Mastigophobia – fear of punishment
  22. Kainophobia – fear of newness, anything new, novelty, innovation and unfamiliar things
  23. Copophobia – fear of exhaustion or fatigue
  24. Kleptophobia – fear of stealing
  25. Febriphobia – fear of fever
  26. Wiccaphobia – fear of witches
  27. Ranidaphobia – fear of frogs
  28. Leprophobia – fear of leprosy
  29. Lygophobia – fear of darkness or being in dark places
  30. Theophobia – fear of Gods and Religion
  31. Technophobia – fear of technology
  32. Zoophobia – fear of animals
  33. Hadephobia – fear of hell
  34. Helminthophobia – fear of being infested with worms
  35. Hydrophobia – fear of water or rabies


What is Systematic Desensitization?

In Psychology, systematic desensitization is to help effectively cope with the disorder and eventually be able to overcome the fear of an object, person or situation, or the fear of the unknown. This is a step by step process wherein the goal of the therapy is for the sufferer to be able to overcome fear but needs not to be forced into the person because it could also add up to the load of fear and even make matters worse. Steps in desensitization varies from psychologists, psychiatrists and even people who doesn’t even know that what they are actually doing to overcome fear is systematic desensitization. When forced to a person, the process itself may post as a traumatic experience and elevate fear to the person. Hence, the goal of overcoming the fear is obliterated.

The process usually starts with relaxation then gradually exposing the person to the threatening situation by imagination. Introducing the person to the object or source of threat is important. Allow the person to verbalize feelings. Visualization techniques are mentally rehearsed moving up from one that is least fearful to imagine to the most fearful while mastering relaxation. The next thing to do is to work as close as possible to the object or situation of fear.

fear of speaking

Speech Anxiety?

For example a person who has speech anxiety and have trouble in speaking in front of many people may be able to overcome his fear by practicing to speak in front of many people. A treatment may include, first, by allowing the person to verbalize feelings and ask him to imagine the events that cause his anxiety. The person may verbalize fear of being laughed at, or fear of making a mistake, and or saying something wrong. Guided imagery may also be of help. Videos of people who had the same situation may give a perspective on what to expect. Working interactively with people who has the same situation will also help because the person can see that other people like him are doing the desensitization process also. Repeated practice and speech exercises in front of a few people followed by more and more people will progressively help until the person no longer fear speaking in front of a crowd.

dipping feet

Being familiar with the water

A person who is phobic with water may overcome the fear of water by allowing the person to watch other people swim then allowing the person to try to the get into the water. In the course of getting into the water, the person may first start with dipping his feet to the water or maybe play the water with his hands then maybe allowing the person to bathe in shallow kiddie pools, until he is ready to go into an adult pool.

Responses to the threat are being recorded in each step in order to know the progress. Evaluation is always important to know if the goal is achieved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *