Use The Gradual Exposure Technique To Beat Phobias and Panic Attacks


Phobias about needles, heights, elevators and others can be overcome with a cognitive-behavioral technique known as “gradual exposure.” This is a cognitive-behavior therapy technique that may give you relief quickly.

The gradual exposure technique requires that you construct a fear hierarchy about your phobia. So if you are afraid of elevators, think of situations that involve elevators, and rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is low fright and 10 is the most frightening.

For example, level 1 could be thinking about having to go to an appointment where you know you have to take an elevator.

Level 2 could be recalling a time when you were on an elevator and were totally frightened. Write a detailed description of the experience

Level 3 might be to look at a photograph of an elevator.

Level 4 could be visiting a building with an elevator.

Level 5 could be standing in front of the elevator.

Level 6 may be touching the elevator controls.

Level 7 might be to step into and then out of the elevator before the doors close. You could have someone with you for support, but should try not to suppress any feelings you have.

On up to Level 10 which would be to ride an elevator.

Once you have outlined the levels of fear, your fear hierarchy, you can begin to overcome your fear.

Begin by imagining your level 1 situation, until you can imagine it without feeling anxious. Take a few minutes, several times a day, until you can imagine the situation without anxiety.

Next you can go to work on the level 2 situation. Write out a detailed description of a situation where you experienced anxiety. Notice your feelings, and keep writing until you have completely described it.

Continue working up your fear hierarchy until you have completed it. Give yourself a few days between each level. Don’t move to the next level until you can experience the level you are working on with complete comfort and ease.

This is just one example of how to create a fear hierarchy. You can create your own. If you are not sure how to do it, you may want to consult with a qualified professional who practices cognitive-behavior therapeutic techniques.