How Desensitization Therapy Will Tame Fear & Boost Self Esteem

If you’re here for the first time, welcome, but those of you who have gotten to know me remember that I have PTSD.

And PTSD & anxiety leave you feeling unsafe and out of control of your own body. Panic attacks leave you feeling emotionally and physically drained. You are left feeling your fears control you.

Desensitization therapy helps you conquer your fears and take back control in your life.

There was once a time in my life where my PTSD was so bad it morphed into agoraphobia (feel of large crowds). Yes, you can get phobias from untreated PTSD. I felt alone, scared, and I isolated myself so much that I could no longer go outside my home without having a panic attack. Thinking about going outside left me a shivering mess in my shower.

That’s when my therapist prescribed a service dog for me and we started desensitization therapy to help me feel safer in the world. You don’t need a service dog to participate in desensitization therapy for anxiety. Just an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a desire to move through your fear.

Let’s chat about how desensitization helped me overcome my greatest fear, and boosted my self esteem. And can help you start taking your life back from your fears.

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Table of Contents

disclosure

While I have hacked mental health for over 20 years, that experience does not make me a mental health professional. I am just a girl living with mental illness. This content is educational and informative and is not to replace the advice of your mental health team or doctor. Try these tips at your own risk.

For more information, please see my disclosure.

For you to have a legal service dog, you need to have documentation from YOUR mental health doctor or therapist stating how a service dog will improve your life (not a fake online registry or an online doctor that is trying to scam you out of your money). Please consult YOUR personal doctor to add a service dog to your treatment plan.

For more information on psychiatric service dogs, contact a disability lawyer or visit the Official ADA Website.


Woman Biting her nails before she attempts desensitization therapy to conquer fears
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What is Desensitization Therapy?

Desensitization Therapy is for people who suffer from anxiety, PTSD, phobias, or fears they would like help to learn to resolve.

Desensitization involves learning self care and relaxation techniques to self soothe while slowly exposing yourself to your fear. Desensitization for anxiety is MORE than just talk therapy. It’s confronting your fears, head on, and learning to accept, soothe, and push through. Desensitization works best on a physical fear like spiders, crowds, etc.

It is best done with a doctor or therapist who can safely guide you and help you overcome any obstacles and emotional blocks you encounter. You will be uncomfortable as you learn, but you will learn how you cope, what works for you, and how to prepare. It did me a WORLD of good!

For help finding a qualified doctor or therapist, Check out Psychology Today. Simply click your Country and start your search.

Desensitization chips away at your fears safely to help you live without your fears ruling your behavior.

Man using a sledgehammers to crush the word fear as a metaphor for desensitization therapy

Example of How I Used Desensitization to Improve My Agoraphobia

Back in the early 2000s, Geez I feel old now, after a huge move from the US to Japan and the difficult birth of my daughter, I had a really hard time controlling my PTSD.

I relied more on my husband, and eventually secluded myself and my daughter off from the world. By the time that I got back to the US, I had Agoraphobia- Fear of Crowds.

I would become a walking puddle of fear anytime I would leave my house. Frequently crying for hours after having a panic attack.

There were days were I couldn’t even get out of my shower because the fear of having to encounter strangers was so terrifying for me, it paralyzed my body. I spent hours frozen in fear in a cold shower. My poor husband would come home to a wet, crying, very cold wife. He started to need more time off to help me.

That’s when my husband, my therapist, and myself decided desensitization therapy for anxiety would be my best long term solution.

We began with identifying why I was so afraid of people. For me, I felt unsafe and vulnerable. My husband and I did guided exercises to slowly expose myself to being near others. We sat in the car and people watched a lot while I cried and shook.

I got stuck in my therapy and developed an unhealthy codependent relationship with my husband. Our next step was to introduce a service dog into my treatment plan. Luckily, I had the perfect pooch who was a perfect fit. He was my dog training demonstration dog; he just needed to learn the task work for my PTSD needs.

With the help of a great pup, support of my family, and some intense work in and out of therapy; I could start taking my life back.

I became active in my community again and started teaching public dog training classes- something that was IMPOSSIBLE for me before. I became an advocate for dogs with anxiety disorders like myself.

I could start caring for my family again instead of being cared for. My independence was reclaimed. I no longer felt like a child of my husband’s but his wife again. And I became a better mother to my young daughter.

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My LATE service Dog, Zeak, resting while I teach a class full of dogs after months of desensitization therapy.

What Desensitization Can Do For You.

When you live your life with fear, it is lonely and stressful. Your unplugged from life. I missed lots of birthdays, celebrations, and trips. My fear isolated me and had me trapped.

Learning to desensitization can help you with:

  • Regaining your independence
  • Learning coping skills for panic attacks
  • Help you accomplish tasks that you couldn’t due to fear avoidance
  • Improve your relationships with your spouse and kids that have been altered by your fears
  • Reduce fear related sleep problems
  • Introduce Calming Techniques to your daily life
  • Help you start to enjoy your life again
  • Help you become involved with friends again
  • and more.

RELATED POST: 8 Simple Calming Techniques You Need to Ease Anxiety & PTSD

Desensitization helping a woman reconnect with friends on a picnic

How Desensitization Therapy Grows Your Self Esteem

Before desensitization therapy, my mental health was very fragile.

I struggled every day just to care for my basic needs and the needs of my daughter. My husband had to fend for himself. Many days I didn’t have the mental energy to care for him too. Fear was taking up too much space in my life.

Years after my desensitization therapy, I can see just how afraid I was.

And just how much that fear took a toll of my self esteem.

Your self esteem will grow because you will:

  • Gain confidence in your ability to deal with stress
  • Rejoice in your ability to do things for yourself again
  • Enjoy your time alone without feeling constant fear
  • You can plan fun time to enjoy with family and friends without an anxiety meltdown
  • The fear of constant panic attacks is gone
  • You learn more about yourself and what you need for your anxiety
  • You feel like a physical weight has been lifted off your mind, body, and soul.
  • You’re able to be more productive in work, home, and fun!
Cat looking at his reflection, which is a lion.  He has improved self esteem.

Getting the Most From Desensitization Therapy with Journaling

I cannot stress this enough- Journaling is the KING of hobbies when you have anxiety or PTSD. You can use it for everything, especially therapy!

Not only are you organized, but you can keep track of your accomplishments and failures between therapy appointments. –Because who can remember their week when put on the spot? Not me, that’s for sure!-

You will have all your therapy notes from your sessions, and your observations and feelings from your solo work in one convenient notebook. No more losing your notes for your next session. Grab some category tabs and you’re good to go!

When you have your notes, you can go back and discover patterns you didn’t know you had. -I found that one of my strongest anxiety & panic attack triggers was feeling unsafe.-

Discover your own patterns, true deep feelings, and have notes for your therapist and doctor to help with your personal self care & treatment plan by keeping journal.

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Golding Notebook 500 Pages on Amazon

You’re going to want a journal to make notes about your positive thinking exercises & your progress.

Take it with you to therapy & Dr. appointments to get the most out of your sessions.

Taking notes during the process will help you see patterns you can work on.

Here is one of my favorite journals!


RELATED POST: 20 Healthy Mindset Habits to Try Today for Positive Mental Health

woman journaling to help with desensitization

Wrapping It Up: How Life Improved After Desensitization Therapy

Life with PTSD and anxiety is challenging, but my time in desensitization therapy gave me my life back.

I very rarely suffer from a panic attack now. I am able to be an active participant in my life again. I enjoy my family, friends, and even enjoy chats with friendly strangers I wait in line with.

I can help my family again. My husband has his wife back- I no longer feel like his child. My daughter has her mother back and she no longer feels the need to protect me. I am now self sufficient and feel optimistic about my life with PTSD & Anxiety after going through desensitization therapy.

Tell me about your fears & how you got over them in the comments.

-I am afraid of deep water from surviving the flood. But now I happily sit in water below my chest by swimming with my pups.

For more information on how to use desensitization to help you think positively, read: Positive Thinking Hacks to Help You Achieve a Positive Mindset.

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Krystian Howe

Hi Lovelies! My name is Krystian and I’ll be your guide on this self care journey. Our destination: positive mental health so you can start living a life you love. We will discover tips & tricks of mental health together, and I’ll give you an exclusive peek into life with a service dog. Get ready to improve your mental health, one step at a time.

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Comments

  1. Such a good post! I love how you mentioned that desensitization can help people gain independence and grow and sharpen coping and calming skills! All of us can benefit from better coping skills! Our mental health is largely determined by how we can cope with what we have going on in our minds whether that’s PTSD, depression, anxiety, or every day stress. Loved this!

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