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14 Apr 2012
Fear and Anxiety Reduction Procedures
Chapter describes procedures used to help people overcome fears and anxiety-related disorders
Fear and anxiety reduction procedures are based on principles of operant and respondent conditioning,
so they address both types of behavior involved in fear and anxiety problems
Examples of Fear and Anxiety Reduction
[Overcoming Trisha’s Fear of Public Speaking]
Trisha had never done a class presentation, and when she thought about it got nervous
Trisha decided to see a psychologist about fear of talking in front of the class because she didn’t
want to experienced the same unpleasant fear reaction in the future
Psychologist first taught her relaxation exercises use to relax when she experienced nervousness
Trisha was successful as she had to give the talk to more and more friends in an empty classroom as
she practiced her relaxation exercise
[Overcoming Allison’s Fear of Spiders]
Visited the psychologist for the help for an intense fear of spiders
Reported intense fear reactions when she saw a spider rapid heart rate, muscle tension, sweating,
upset stomach and nausea, flushed face, light-headedness!
Started by assessing Allison’s fear (jar with spider on a table)
Psychologist began treatment by teaching relaxation exercises to Allison
Allison and psychologist continued this process, using the relaxation exercises and gradually
approaching spider
Defining Fear and Anxiety Problems
Important to provide operational definitions of the behaviors involved
Fear is composed of both operant and respondent behavior person is afraid of a particular
stimulus or stimulus situation
When the stimulus is present, person experiences unpleasant bodily responses (autonomic nervous
system arousal) and engages in escape or avoidance behavior
The bodily responses are respondent behaviors we call Anxiety
Autonomic nervous system arousal involved in anxiety is an establishing operation that makes it
more likely that the person will engage in escape or avoidance behavior at that time
Most problems that we would label as fears or anxiety disorders are characterized by a combination
of respondent behavior bodily response of anxiety is elicited by a particular CS, and operant
behavior, in which escape of avoidance behaviors are reinforced by removal of the feared stimulus
and reduction in the unpleasant anxiety
Procedures to Reduce Fear and Anxiety
Number of behavior modification procedures are used to help people overcome problems of fear or
Procedures involve relaxation training, systematic desensitization and in-vivo desensitization
based on principles of respondent conditioning, operant conditioning or combination of the two
Relaxation Training
Relaxation training procedures are strategies that people use to decrease the autonomic
arousal that they experience as a component of fear and anxiety problems
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