Bug Blog

How Exposure Therapy Can Be Improved To Help Those With A Fear Of Spiders

Exposure therapy is generally agreed to be the most effective treatment for phobias. The idea behind exposure therapy consists in experiencing something you fear repeatedly despite the anxiety and discomfort the fear causes. This will desensitize the patient to the object of his/her fear. However, it is not uncommon that the patient will forget why he/she does not fear a particular thing, for instance spiders, and then he/she will begin to fear spiders once again. It is hard to unlearn frightening memories of spiders. Researchers have now developed a method of increasing the efficacy of exposure therapy so that even the more regular and vivid fear inducing memories cannot overpower and replace the desensitizing effect of the exposure therapy.

Simply by introducing a slight tweak to the exposure therapy procedure patients were able to avoid retaining older fear-provoking memories. The researchers accomplished this improved result by having the patients return to the clinic the following day in order to view the same frightening pictures of spiders for a second time. By repeating the same fear-provoking stimulus after enough time has passed to process the first fear-provoking stimulus the new stimulus will become more ingrained in the patient’s psyche, and the memory of the positive exposure will become a fixture in the patient’s mind. It is amazing how much more fruitful the research became simply by making a slight addition to the scientific procedure.

What other types of therapy exist to help people cope with feelings of fear and phobia?