Flooding Psychology: Best technique for phobia treatment

flooding psychology

Flooding Psychology! What is it?

‘’To live in a world full of fears is not living, it is survival.’’

Are you suffering from ‘’Arachnophobia’’ (fear of spiders) or ‘’Entomophobia’’ (fear of insects)? Have you observed someone with ‘’Ophidiophobia’’ (fear of snakes), ‘’Acrophobia’’ (fear of height), or ‘’Hemophobia’’ (fear of blood)?

All these phobias are invasive and debilitating psychological impairments, and to deal with these issues. Extreme behavioral therapy is used that is called ‘’Flooding’’. So, today’s post is all about ‘Flooding Psychology’, management of Phobia, and flooding behavior therapy.

Definition of Phobia:

‘’Phobia is a kind of unreasoning fear to some non-dangerous situations or things. These non-dangerous things get associated with panic response somehow, that is associated with mortal danger.’’

Why is it important to manage Phobia?

Fear is something very common and almost everyone in the world deals with it on daily basis. Whether it is fear of death, fear of reaching tax time, or some relatively small fear the fact is fear itself is not necessarily bad always. In fact fear is an automatic human survival mechanism. Its repercussions and cumulative effects can be extremely destructive to own self and those who live around. Keeping this in mind it is essential to control your fears.

Types of Phobia:

Phobia develops around a situation or an object and some people may experience multiple phobias. Phobia is mainly categorized into two types:

Specific Phobia:

Phobia associated with a particular situation, object, certain food, or costumed character is called specific Phobia. It can develop in childhood as well as adolescence and in many people it lessens with increasing age. Some of the common Specific Phobias are:

  • Fear of natural environment such as germs, height, lightning, water, darkness, storms, etc.
  • Body-based Phobia like childbirth, injection, choking, vomit, blood, or a medical procedure.
  • Fear from animals such as spider, snake, rodents, dogs, etc.
  • Situational fear like afraid of going to the dentist, small and dark spaces, and fear of flying.
  • Fear of nudity or sexual acts phobia called sexual Phobia.

Complex Phobia:

A more disabling and disruptive impact of Phobia in a person’s life is called complex phobia. This particular phobic situation appears when an individual gets adult. Complex Phobia is sub-divided into two more categories, known as:

Social Phobia: 

It is also called social anxiety disorder in which an individual finds it difficult to adjust in social situations. The person feels awkward and shy within an intense feeling of fear in social situations and tries to avoid social gatherings.

Agoraphobia: 

Usually it is considered as a fear of open spaces, but in actual it is more complex. It is a feeling of high level anxiety in which a person tries to avoid everyday situations like:

Being in a crowd, outside the home alone, traveling by car, bus, or plane, and afraid of being in a closed space like in a lift or in a ship. Agoraphobia seriously impacts the way of life. A person with agoraphobia finds it hard to leave their house.

Causes of Phobia:

There is no particular cause of Phobia, but several factors play important role in the development of a particular phobia. Some of them are:

  • The picked responses of early life can cause Phobia.
  • Trauma or particular incidents of life
  • Genetics
  • Long term stress and anxiety

Symptoms of Phobia:

Phobia has different intensity for different people and severity of the condition varies the symptoms. Symptoms of fear and anxiety can be associated with Phobia. In severe conditions of Phobia, even thinking about an object or situation can trigger symptoms of Phobia. So, the situation cannot be taken for granted in any way. Some of the common psychological and physical symptoms of Phobia are:

Psychological symptoms:

  • Fear of death
  • Fear of fainting
  • Losing control over senses
  • Feeling detached from body
  • Hallucinations

Physical Symptoms:

  • Feeling of choking
  • Dizziness, or feeling of being unsteady or faint
  • Sweating
  • Tightens in the chest with chest pain
  • In addition, Palpitation, pounding heart, and accelerated heartbeat can occur
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Cold or hot flushes
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Shortness of breathe
  • Tingling sensation

Treatments available for Phobia:

Seeking help for Phobia sometimes gets too much difficult. Phobia may stop you from making an appointment with your psychologist, especially when contact with the doctor involves a condition or situation related to Phobia. Such as leaving the house, visiting a doctor, or talking on the phone.

  • Self-care
  • Exposure therapy for Phobia
  • Talking treatment
  • Medication

Exposure treatment:

In exposure psychology, exposure therapy is the most reliable and effective kind of treatment for phobias . Moreover, there are several variations of this exposure therapy and a psychologist knows well that which strategy works best for what kind of patients. Different types of exposure treatment are:

  • Direct exposure (Flooding therapy)
  • Virtual reality exposure
  • Interceptive exposure
  • Graded exposure
  • Systematic desensitization
  • Habituation
  • Self-efficacy
  • Emotional processing

Flooding therapy for treating phobias (Flooding psychology):

Flooding is an extreme behavioral therapy in which a person is exposed to the most frightening situations rather than exposing that person to their phobia stimulus gradually. In flooding situations (flooding psychology), a person cannot avoid their Phobia, and this continuous exposure to the phobia source decreases the anxiety level.

This cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is often used in the treatment of phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Moreover, it is a proven and completely safe technique that is used by a licensed and experienced therapist.

Flooding is the part of exposure therapy in which reminders or trauma memories can be confronted all at once. While on the other hand it is preferable to work gradually up to the extreme trauma by using few relaxation techniques.

There are two forms of flooding:

  • Actual exposure to the phobia source (in vivo)
  • Imaginary exposure to the phobia source (in vitro)

In addition to this flooding behavior therapy patients are taught relaxation techniques also and person can apply these techniques in the most fearful situations to deal with in vivo or in vitro phobia source.

Flooding in Psychology:

In terms of Psychology flooding is total immersion. Purely flooding involves forced and prolonged exposure to that particular stimulus that can provoke the original trauma. Usually it can be really problematic; of course it is not practical to force someone to sit in a room full of snakes and spiders. This powerful form of therapy treatment was invented by a psychologist Thomas Stampfl in 1967.

According to psychology there is another meaning of flooding. Psychological flooding is a certain point level of emotional arousal where human mind cannot process information and communication effectively. Actually, this is a situation in which people in relationship have to remain alert. Because this is when their partner or they themselves might be emotionally flooded in interpersonal discussions. It can happen in start of conversation or midway.

NOTE: Being psychologically flooded is not a character flaw.

How to perform flooding therapy?

To treat any kind of phobia flooding therapy is used in conjunction with relaxation imagery, exercises, or techniques. These coping techniques result in the re-traumatizing of a person by the similar event or fear.

Additionally, it is very essential that flooding exposure therapy can be conducted by a trained and experienced therapist who knows professional Phobia or fear coping techniques. Flooding helps people to habituate to their fears and allow the intense emotion surrounding them to extinguish.

In flooding, the fear of an individual is brought in front of him/her not in a small or medium dose, but all at once, in fullest intensity. That person experiences the full intensity of their fears until the situation of habituation occurs.

Pros and Cons of Flooding Therapy:

Flooding is a very cost-effective treatment for phobias, and this is its biggest strength. It is significantly quick and patients treated quicker for health service providers.

This specific kind of therapy technique (flooding) possesses potential for harm too. Its high traumatic nature can cause high level of anxiety in patients.

Flooding is a very stressful experience for patients. Although they provide informed consent, but many cannot complete their treatment. So sometimes flooding can also become a waste of money and time.

Conclusion:

No doubt, flooding technique is very effective for simple phobias. Still, for some advance or complex phobias like agoraphobia and Social Phobia, it is not. This therapeutic window is required only to balance between facing the fears, courting habituation, and respecting the limits for overwhelm. In overwhelmed situations, habituation does not occur. So, it is better to take a milder or medium intensity approach to different exposure therapies and leave flooding therapy as an extreme one.

What is your opinion about flooding therapy? Please share your thoughts and suggestions with LKKG.

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