The process of visual or real life desensitization requires gradual exposure to the thing that sparks your anxiety. Creating a hierarchy of steps to confront your fear is a great way to break down the fear into doable steps and chart your progress.
 
In order to desensitize yourself from your fears, you will have to work a program of gradual exposure through visual or real life contact with your fear. Most people do this through visuals, gradually exposing themselves in their mind to their fear.

Some people prefer to do real life exposure and some a combination. The method you choose depends on the level of your anxiety as well as the practicality of confronting your fear in real life. 

Confronting your fear of shopping in the grocery store or a crowded place is much more doable than working on gradual steps flying in a plane or going in the ocean if you live far away from one. 

The process of desensitization requires the formation of a hierarchy of steps to achieve your goal.  Making a hierarchy is a key to success because it will help you confront your fear in a gradual and doable way and you´ll see real progress as you work you way down the list. 

In order to create a hierarchy, write down your fear at the top of a paper and your goal at the bottom of the paper. Break the steps towards completing your goal into at least 8 parts. Each step should be more challenging than the previous and each step should provoke more a fear based reaction than the previous step. 

1) Let´s say you´re afraid of going to the mall, it´s so crowded, confusing, noisy and overwhelming. Write down your fear at the top of the page; Fear of Crowded Places or Going to the Mall.  

2) Write down your goal at the bottom of the page; be able to comfortably go to the mall and buy things. 

3) Now that you have your fear and your goal, you need to break you exposure steps into at least 8 parts. Examples of your steps could include:

a) drive to the mall parking lot with your support person. If the parking lot is part of your anxiety and makes you afraid, try spending an increasing amount of time in the parking lot, first 1 minute, then five minutes, then 15 minutes and so on. 

b) once you´ve mastered the parking lot, get out of the car and walk to the mall entrance with your support person.

c) next time go in the mall with your support person and build on that in time increments. 

d) next go into stores and spend some time in them in increasing increments. Then you can work on buying things. 

The goal is to build up your endurance to this exposure and eventually do things without your support person. 

You don´t have to expose yourself in real life; you can also desensitize yourself if you are able to picture the sights, sounds and smells of a mall. 

Creating your hierarchy give you your roadmap to success. Check off each step as you complete it successfully and write down the date you completed it. You will feel a real sense of accomplishment and see progress over the coming weeks and months as you work to overcome your fears.

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Tagged with: AgoraphobiaAnxiety DisorderAnxiety SymptomsAnxiey AttacksGeneralized Anxiety DisorderObsessive Compulsive DisorderPanic AttacksSocial Phobia

Filed under: Social Phobia

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