phobias: 2 Articles

Help Your Child Overcome Fears with Exposure Therapy

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 is

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Help Your Child Overcome Fears with Exposure Therapy 2021-03-25T11:20:38-04:00

Small Steps Can Conquer Big Fears: Helping Kids Overcome Phobias

Fear is a natural response to threatening situations, but sometimes fear can prevent people from participating in everyday experiences. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. When a child struggles with a phobia, it can greatly impact their lives and the lives of their families. Psychologists Claire A. B. Freeland, PhD and Jacqueline B. Toner, PhD explain how parents can help kids with phobias overcome their fears by supporting gradual, increasing exposure to the feared situation, helping kids learn mindfulness and self-calming techniques, promoting positive self-talk, and monitoring exposure to frightening messages from the world at large in Magination Press book What to Do When Fear Interferes: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Phobias. Take small steps The most effective way to overcome a phobia is exposure, which requires the child to experience the feared object for a period of time long enough for their extreme physical and emotional reactions to dissipate. One of the greatest challenges in helping a child to overcome a phobia can be convincing them to hang in there rather than avoid their fear, and to provide support as they do so. It’s important to approach the trigger in a modulated way. Initially, a child may need help choosing tasks that are far removed from the feared experience, such as imagining a thunderstorm or looking at pictures of insects. Taking it slowly and letting a child experience success by overcoming mildly scary situation will allow them to build confidence in facing increasingly more feared situations. Build skills In addition to helping a child increase her exposure to her phobia, parents can help her develop strategies to manage her reactions to scary experiences. By developing positive self-talk, a child can learn to focus on rational thinking and self-cheerleading to proceed with exposure experiences. Providing rewards, both tangible and social, will help them feel accomplishment and pride in taking on gradually more difficult challenges. Learning coping strategies that help them to relax and de-stress can reduce overall anxious tendencies, making success more likely. Manage Media Phobias can result from frightening or traumatic experiences, but more often, they don’t have a known source. Children who tend to be anxious may be likely to develop a specific phobia. Children are particularly susceptible to developing vicarious fears. This happens when they observe another person reacting with intense fear. Or, a fear can develop vicariously by watching a movie where another is afraid or even from a news report that accentuates the damage caused by a storm or the abundance of a particular illness this season. Parents should be aware of messages children may encounter that could serve to reinforce their fears. Gently redirect adult conversation about impending weather events, recent accidents, or out-of-control animals. Judiciously monitor children’s experiences with frightening messages they receive through the media. When such messages still manage to reach a child, a parent can counter scary messages with more realistic views of the possible danger and how people can stay safe. Helping

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Small Steps Can Conquer Big Fears: Helping Kids Overcome Phobias 2019-07-24T13:39:26-04:00