What is a Good Intervention for Anxiety?
Voluntary Systematic Desensitization is a good and simple intervention to manage anxiety. In order to understand it lets break down one word at a time.
Everyone is familiar with this physiological phenomenon. When you jump into a swimming pool, at first you feel cold then you “get used to it.” Your body adjusts. This process of “getting used to” is your body becoming desensitized to a strong initial stimulus. The same thing will happen with anxiety. If you are in an anxiety-provoking situation long enough without panicking, your anxiety will decrease. However, it is very important that you expose yourself slowly and never reach a point in which you feel overwhelmed. That what the Systematic part of the name describes.
Systematic describes how healthy desensitization occurs: you systematically, that is slowly, increase the amount of anxiety a situation produces. You do not increase the intensity of what makes a person anxious until the person has fully adapted (desensitized) to the previous level.
This last part of voluntary systematic desensitization is often neglected. A person does not show clinical progress when they are forced to face their fears. The person needs to be in control. They have to be able to control how much is too much. They need to be taught and encouraged to slowly increase their anxiety as they develop the capacity to live with it without feeling overwhelmed. This applies to all emotions. As a person develops a greater capacity to handle anxiety in one area, they develop more of a capacity to manage anxiety throughout their life. Try it and let us know how it works for you.