Desensitization is a process of reducing one’s normal level of emotional responsiveness to a particular stimulus. It is also sometimes referred to as psychological habituation. Desensitization is a popular among therapists as a form of psychological treatment used to help people overcome past traumatic experiences and phobias. Desensitization is a form of conditioning that involves the repeated exposure of a person to a certain event in order to reduce the fear or anxiety they may experience when confronted with that stimulus in the future.

Types of Desensitization

There are three main types of desensitization which are Systematic Desensitization, flooding, and visualization. Systematic desensitization is a technique used to gradually and systematically pair a feared stimulus with a desired response. Systematic desensitization is based on the premise that if a patient is presented with a series of gradually more intense stimuli, eventually the fear will become habituated and will no longer be felt. Flooding is a process in which a person is exposed to a feared stimulus for a sustained period of time without the opportunity to escape from the situation. This can be used to treat phobias. Visualization is a method of desensitization used to reduce anxiety by focusing on images and thoughts related to the traumatic memory. Visualization is commonly used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Benefits of Desensitization

Desensitization has been found to be a very effective tool for treating traumatic experiences and phobias. Studies have found that it can lead to significant decreases in fear, anxiety, and avoidance of the situation or event. In addition, desensitization can also increase positive emotions, such as happiness. The process can also help to reduce the frequency of physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate, sweating, and muscle tension.

Tips to Practice Desensitization

  • Identify and recognize the triggers that cause distress.
  • Start with less intense stimuli and gradually increase the intensity of the stimulus as you progress through desensitization.
  • Practice deep breathing techniques when faced with anxious situations as it can help to reduce fear.
  • Practice relaxation exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation or meditation to help reduce stress.
  • Discuss your process with a mental health professional in order to identify any potential roadblocks on the path to desensitization.