Exposure Technique – climb a ladder!

Let’s just get it out there, anxiety sucks. Very few people who do not suffer from it truly understand how debilitating it can be to suffer from it, which can be incredibly isolating when you have nobody around that can understand and help you. Make you feel safe.

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One of the very few people in my life who does understand the emotional effects and toll my anxiety takes on me in my….scary word here people, therapist. That’s right, my therapist. We all react differently to the medical help that’s provided to us when we seek assistance for mental health issues. I’ve tried many bouts of therapy and councilling but my anxiety persists. Recently though, my new therapist has seemd to really care more about the emotional side of my anxiety. Talking therapy has apparently taken well, not only do we talk but she does provide me with  anxiety management techniques. The combination seems to be working very well.

So I thought I’d share and exposure technique that was shared with me. The idea behind exposure is to repeatedly perform an action that causes you to be anxious, thus over time dulling the panic/anxiety response it brings forward. My therapist presented me with the Hierarchy of Fears, a visual track of my anxiety in the form of a ladder.

The first step of the graded exposure process is to create a list known as a “fear hierarchy.” The goal is then to start at the bottom of the list, set goals challenging each situation without engaging in escape or safety behaviours, and gradually work your way up the list. I’ve been shown to represent this list is the form of a ladder, with my fear at the top and each rung is a challenge up towards it.

Build your ladder of fears by following these steps:

1. Identify a target fear you want to work on, and place it at the top of your ladder.

2. Add as many steps/rungs as you need but be sure to arrange them from ‘most feared’ at the top rung to ‘least feared’ at the bottom rung.

3. You can now start the graded exposure process. Start at the bottom of the ladder with the least feared situation. Keep track of each time you expose yourself to this situation, keeping a tally besides that situation/rung. I also found it helpful to rate my anxiety level at the start, the highest point and my orginated ‘fear’ and then at each situation/rung. You will then see your anxiety represented graphically for each step, and these graphs may help you to pace your exposure.

If you notice that your anxiety is manageable during a particular situation from your ladder, it is time for you to progress to the next rung of the ladder. Remember to pace yourself and only move up to the next step when you are ready.

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I’ll be putting my own ladder to use this weekend, I have a trip so will be pretty silent on here until after Monday! Hopefully after I return I can complete that particular ladder and my final rung will be “climbed”

Until my next blog post, I’ll see you all online! Charlotte x

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