Anxiety is the fear, worry, or discomfort we experience when faced with an object or situation we think is harmful. In many cases, anxiety is both normal and necessary. In fact, it is in part what has allowed the human race to survive thus far! Anxiety kept our ancestors vigilant while hunting for food, so as not to be eaten by a lion. It is what keeps us aware when we are crossing a busy street. Anxiety becomes a problem if it begins to interfere with the way we act or feel on a daily basis. When this happens, regular anxiety has become an anxiety disorder. A child or teenager with anxiety may start to do poorly in school, stop spending time with friends, or become depressed. The good news is that anxiety disorders are very treatable. Exposure therapy is one of the treatments that can be helpful for many types of anxieties. Dr. Alanna Propst’s book, The Not-So-Scary Dog, explores how a mom helps her child, Tommy, reduce his fear of dogs using exposure therapy. Here’s an excerpt from the Reader’s Note. Exposure therapy is a form of cognitive behavior therapy in which one is exposed to something that triggers anxiety. When we avoid an object or situation that causes anxiety, we learn that we stayed safe because we stayed away. Instead, we need to learn that we can be close to whatever we are scared of and still be safe. Being near something we are afraid of can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, so exposure therapy often occurs in small steps, getting a little bit closer to the feared object or situation with each task. It may seem as though exposure therapy gets harder as it progresses, but this is not the case. Each step is done until the anxiety is gone or minimal and serves as practice so that the next steps do not actually feel as difficult as they would before therapy. Parents can help their children through this process in several ways: Share your own anxieties with your children. Children suffering from anxiety may feel alone or ashamed about what they are going through. If you talk about your own experiences, your child can see that they are not strange or different. Knowing that you have dealt with anxiety can also help your child feel that you understand their experience. If you have been able to overcome your anxiety, talking about your story can show your child that fears can indeed be conquered. Pause throughout the book to explain how exposure works by using examples from the book. The main idea to convey is the difference between avoidance and exposure. Avoidance teaches our brains that we are safe only because we stayed out of harm’s way. Exposure lets us see that what we are scared of is not actually dangerous. For example, in the book, as Tommy looks at pictures of dogs in his first task, he is slowly able to see that he isRead More
About Alanna Propst, MDAlanna J. Propst is a psychiatrist who graduated from McGill University in both the Psychiatry Residency Program as well as the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Subspecialty Program, and has worked in inpatient, outpatient, and emergency room settings. This is her debut picture book. Alanna lives in Montreal, Canada.
What would you do if you were invited to a birthday party with a trampoline and games and pizza, cake, AND ice cream, but a big scary dog would be there, too? Tommy's fear of dogs stands in the way of him enjoying a friend's party. His mom helps Tommy overcome his fear by taking small steps to get used to dogs using exposure therapy in The Not-So-Scary Dog. Hear author Alanna Propst read The Not-So-Scary Dog aloud. Read an excerpt from the Note to Parents and Caregivers here.Read More