It is normal to want to avoid the things you fear. And it works – in the moment.
But research tells us that avoidance is one of the main factors that causes anxiety to persist and grow. It prevents us from learning that things are really not as dangerous or distressing as we imagined.
Gradually facing fears, step by step, is a very powerful tool to help overcome anxiety. In more clinical terms, this process is called “exposure.”
How exposure works
Exposure involves slowly and gradually doing the things you have been avoiding. Think back to a situation that used to make you anxious. It could be a time you were starting a new job or school program, or learning to drive … If you are much less anxious about it now, it’s likely because you got practice in (or got exposure to) the situation and learned you could cope.
You may think that exposure won’t work because you’ve tried it in the past, without much success. If this is the case, chances are your exposures were not done in a way that really showed you that you could cope. Please read on for tips on making exposures more effective.
Although exposure might be the last thing we want to do, research tells us it is the MOST IMPORTANT thing to do for overcoming fears!