Systematic desensitization is a cognitive and behavioral therapy process designed to help eliminate phobias and unrealistic anxiety and avoidance responses . A psychologist can teach you how to control the
unpleasant physiological effects of anxiety and panic that occur when you experience fear. (For example, if you are afraid of dogs, how do you react when you are confronted with a dog?)
Desensitization is a two step process. First, you must learn how to control anxiety/fear responses in a general way. Relaxation skills are taught, so you become capable of shutting down severe anxiety symptoms in
any situation. Then you learn how to use these techniques to control and overcome your fear in specific situations. This is done through imagery, and cognitive rehearsal of anxiety-provoking situations in the
psychologist's office. Following mastery of anxiety control in imagery exercises, your psychologist will then help you master those symptoms in real life situations.
Systematic desensitization is a very effective way to overcome phobias. It is frequently combined with psychotherapy to treat individuals with a variety of anxiety problems, including specific phobias, panic
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post traumatic stress disorder. The time taken to desensitize to anxiety-provoking situations varies with the individual and the situation. However, the effectiveness of
this process makes it an excellent choice for most anxiety disorders.