Thursday, July 27, 2006

How Do you Help Someone with Agoraphobia Practice Systematic Desensitization?

Before helping someone with agoraphobia practice systematic desensitization, there are a couple things to learn.

First, get familiar with the anxiety scale. Ask the sufferer to rank their anxiety level at periodic intervals during practice and under no circumstances encourage them to persist in confronting a feared situation if their anxiety level gets beyond a three. While discomfort is necessary for desensitizing themselves to a feared setting, feeling anxiety beyond a level of three is likely to reinforce the very associations between the feared setting and anxiety feelings that the sufferer is trying to break. Staying below level three during practice will help the sufferer form new associations between the setting and lower anxiety levels.

Second, learn the following steps, referred to as five R’s, as a framework for guiding the sufferer through the systematic desensitization process. These steps are recommended by Dr. A. B. Hardy in Karen Williams’ book, How to Help Your Loved One Recover From Agoraphobia:

React: Confront fearful situations until the anxiety reaction is slightly uncomfortable, a #3 (or below) on the anxiety scale.

Retreat: Back away from the fearful situation. Walk toward the door, take a few steps away, or turn around and face the other way.

Relax: Distract mind and let self relax and calm down.

Recover: Completely recover from the anxious reaction.

Repeat: Approach the fearful situation again, repeating the five R’s process.

Here are some suggestions for preparing the agoraphobia sufferer for practice, adapted from Karen Williams’ book:

· Find out what the agoraphobia sufferer would like you to do if they get highly anxious or panic. Different people have different preferences. Some people will like for you to talk them through it or touch them. Others will like you to be silent and stand back while they work through it on their own.

· Remind the agoraphobia sufferer that risk-taking and discomfort are a necessary part of the recovery process and that you will be with them no matter what they experience.

· If the agoraphobia sufferer starts to back out of practicing and give excuses, confront the excuses with encouragement to go ahead and practice. If the sufferer absolutely refuses to follow through with practicing, don’t force them, but lead them to set another time and place for practicing in the near future.

· If practicing is going to take place in a social setting among others, agree upon a signal for leaving that the agoraphobia sufferer can use to communicate with you if they get too anxious and need to leave. This will prevent the agoraphobia sufferer from getting trapped in a situation in which their anxiety gets beyond a three and from embarrassing themselves or having to explain anything in front of other people.

· Don’t set any preconceived expectations for what the agoraphobia sufferer will accomplish during any one practice session. Allow for bad days and for progress to go up and down. Let the sufferer set their own goals for each practice session and never say anything to make them feel like they are letting you down if they don’t meet their goal for that day.

· Make some encouraging comments to give the person with agoraphobia your vote of confidence before beginning. Tell them you believe in them.

· Also let the person with agoraphobia know you will be there for them no matter what happens and that they are in control. Tell them they will be in control of the situation at all times and that you are simply there to help. State that when they want to leave, you will.

31 Comments:

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in Santa Monica California my brother has had agoraphobia and on top of it the fear of loosing control of his bowels. Unfortunately recently our mother had died whom he lived with. We now have to move him but don't no where to begin. This situation has been going for years he has tried numerous medicines and nothing seems to work. I am desperate and will do anything to get him help. Please if you have any suggestions I would greatly appreciate it!

 
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At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe in Agoraphobia is what I hear. When everyone is angry at me I cannot do what is expected of me. I have tried. I have no where to go. Remember, people are involved in their own world. For me, I am tired. I don't have any energy to explain why any longer. I leave everyone alone as they don't want to even try to understand. Better to be lonely than to deal with angry people.

 
At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great tips, thank you :)

 
At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tonight I was searching the web with my father and found out he has agoraphobia. All of the symptoms and everything has described what my father is going threw. I am 15 and I'm living with my father. He has no wife to help him threw this phobia. And some people may not think it's serious but I've seen what it does to my father and it's very sad. I'm willing to try almost any thing. I just don't want him to keep on drinking everyday to "self madicate

 
At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suffer in that I cannot get out of the house on time, potter around about 2 hours after I was supposed to leave, and then only because my family drags me out. I don't go out socially and let the fridge get really empty before I force myself to go to the market. Everyday is a struggle and I cannot do an outside job even though I am hardworking at home. I scored 80% on the test

 
At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everyone does the best they can .some take medicine and some pray and others do what they can to get threw the day .just do something to help yourself and others.peace

 
At 8:04 PM, Anonymous billy said...

pray read love enjoy life it is so short. take a walk go to church . but most of all be a friend to someone worse off than you.

 
At 8:38 PM, Anonymous ginger said...

my mother is agoraphobic and all she does is sit at home and watch soap operas. and she lives for one thing her Xanax and Norco and god bless her . That is all the poor thing has . could someone please help her. she needs someone and I cant help her .I am a fucking drunk. and I cant help my sorry ass self. sorry for talking so much. I need a beer.

 
At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear ginger You need help worst than your poor mother .you need a good fucking by Jon HAM Don draper. GOD I MISS MADMEN. SORRY DON.

 
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