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gib65

getting over fear: does frequency of exposure matter?

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They say that to get over a fear, one has to expose themselves to that fear over and over until the fear goes away (assuming of course they experience no adverse effects). For example, I have a fear of public speaking. I'm trying to get over it by going to public speaking sessions. For example, toastmasters. I've been going for the past several months and I'm not experiencing the effects I was expecting. I still get very nervous speaking in front of crowds and it shows.

What I'm wondering is, is there any research to show that to get over a fear of public speaking (or any phobia), one has to expose themselves to that fear at a sufficient frequency? I mean, to take a ridiculously extreme example, I don't think one would ever get over a fear by exposing one's self to it once a year. But do it once a day, then maybe.

I go to Toastmasters once a week and I'm wondering if that's not frequent enough. I'm wondering if it should be more like twice or three times a week.

Has there been any research to show that the frequency with which one is exposed to a certain fear makes a difference? In particular, is there a frequency below which it has no effect whatsoever?

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2 hours ago, gib65 said:

They say that to get over a fear, one has to expose themselves to that fear over and over until the fear goes away (assuming of course they experience no adverse effects)

I believe I can vouch for that. I was a tradesman, with a fear of heights. Even up something like a 20ft ladder, I was always paranoid about making sure it was grounded properly and with an assistant holding it secure. I would never approach near the edge of a cliff for fear of dizziness and going over. Then in 1974 while still a single bloke, I joined a  three masted square rigged Barquentine in Cristobal on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Panama canal. As part of the crew, I was expected to take part in all duties and stand my watches. I told the skipper of my general fear of heights when he spoke of setting/furling the square sails and the obvious need to climb the mast via the ratlines, and venture out on the yardarms via the foot ropes. 

While waiting for our turn to traverse the canal, and the 12 hours or so it took to go from one side to the other, the skipper decided to take me under his personal command, and within 2 or 3 days, had me out on the yard arms maintaining the square sails. Of course we had not yet ventured out into the wide blue Pacific where the water/Ocean was not as docile and calm. But it was a start and before long I was up the ratlines and out on the yard arm foot ropes furling in sails when needed with the best of them in all sorts of weather and seas!

 

PS: No safety gear either.

Edited by beecee

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10 hours ago, gib65 said:

They say that to get over a fear, one has to expose themselves to that fear over and over until the fear goes away (assuming of course they experience no adverse effects). For example, I have a fear of public speaking. I'm trying to get over it by going to public speaking sessions. For example, toastmasters. I've been going for the past several months and I'm not experiencing the effects I was expecting. I still get very nervous speaking in front of crowds and it shows.

What I'm wondering is, is there any research to show that to get over a fear of public speaking (or any phobia), one has to expose themselves to that fear at a sufficient frequency? I mean, to take a ridiculously extreme example, I don't think one would ever get over a fear by exposing one's self to it once a year. But do it once a day, then maybe.

I go to Toastmasters once a week and I'm wondering if that's not frequent enough. I'm wondering if it should be more like twice or three times a week.

Has there been any research to show that the frequency with which one is exposed to a certain fear makes a difference? In particular, is there a frequency below which it has no effect whatsoever?

What you refer to is called exposure therapy. While this is not the only approach,  some meta analyses indicate that they have generally the strongest effect. However, with regard to frequency, that depends highly on the individual. Usually a specialist that can assess anxiety and progress can help fine tune these types of therapy. That being said,  generally more sessions correlate with outcome, though there is a point of diminishing returns.

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Frequency matters, but so does intensity.

When working to desensitize and extinguish these responses, a huge component is being able to successfully be exposed to the stimulus in a safe way. It teaches us that our fear was misplaced and thatvsafe outcomes are the norm, but it’s about baby steps of incremental increases of intensity.

If one is afraid of heights, for example, you don’t start with skydiving or repelling from a skyscraper. That’s just make the fear worse. You instead begin with something trivial and safe, like climbing 2 or 3 steps in a stairwell then climbing back down. As the treatment recipient gets more comfortable, they climb 10 or 20 steps, thrn 50 to 100, then successively higher and in more environments with increasing cues of height (windows, wind, horizons) until a new learned response is the default... comfort and ease instead of anxiety and existential dread. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy has seen enormous success with this work. 

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