How to use exposure therapy to overcome phobias

Beeeeeeeeees! Oh my gosh…. We all have fears. But when does a fear become a phobia? It happens when your fear begins to get in
the way of your life. For example… A few years ago I was installing an AC in
my living room. I opened the window and saw a massive swarm of bees. I panicked, ran into my bedroom, slammed the
door shut, and grabbed some towels to seal the space under the door because I thought
the bees were going to come after me. I’m not allergic to bees, but I believed something
bad was going to happen. I called my wife and begged her to come home
and save me. She did…but I was on edge for days after that and I couldn’t bring myself
to open the window. My wife ended up installing that AC on her own while I was away from work. Kinda ironic — me escaping to work to avoid
my phobia when my job is to treat other people’s phobias… This whole AC incident made me realized I
needed to do something about my phobia. When you get anxious your urge is to avoid
a situation. While that makes you feel better, it keeps you from learning that if you stick
with a situation, your body will adapt and your anxiety will come down on its own. The
more you expose yourself to anxiety, the less anxiety you feel. This is the idea behind
exposure therapy, the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders. Here’s how I applied exposure therapy to
my bee phobia. Step 1: Make an exposure plan. I started by making a fear hierarchy – listing
all the situations that made me anxious and rating them from 0 to 100 — stuff like cartoon
bees, videos of bees, being in a garden with a lot of flowers, all the way up to having
a bee crawl on my skin. Step 2: Pick a low starting point. I started my treatment with an exposure that
was one step above what I could already do — watch a documentary about bees. This where most people mess up exposure therapy
– they start REALLY high, the exposure is overwhelming, and they give up. If you start
too high you might end up strengthening your phobia. It’s like learning to ride a bike — the
first thing you do is get used to training wheels, not extreme mountain biking. Step 3: Get bored of your exposures. Exposures work when you do them over and over
again. Once you get bored, THEN you move up in difficulty. I’ve spent a few months crossing things
off my hierarchy and I’m ready the face real bees. My wife found a patch of flowers
with lots of bees nearby. So…let’s go face
my fear.

73 comments

  1. well done on facing your fear of bees! Also it sets a good example because not only do you present the theory, but walk the talk 🙂 you're very brave! 🙂

  2. Very interesting! I used to have a phobia of dogs. Like I'm pretty big, but I'd cross the street if there were a chihuahua coming or something. I think I went through some bad exposures that made things worse. But I eventually worked it out. I still don't like dogs, but I'm not really unnecessarily afraid of them anymore. ^_^

  3. Did you feel at that point of time that you were ready to face the bees was it too much of a huge jump? How long did it take you to manage your phobia like this? Also, what breathing techniques do you recommend? I wish this video was longer.. I wanna know more about the steps you took. How often did you look at the images/videos? For how long?

  4. Dear Dr Ali, I have a fear of sleeping with open doors and sleeping with other people in the same room. Could it be linked to social anxiety? How can I slowly learn to overcome it? Many thanks!

  5. I'm working on my arachnophobia, which is generally moderate to severe. I'm getting to a place where I feel comfortable with the idea of holding a tarantula soon; and I was that person who was so terrified of them as a kid to the point where if I saw a spider in the shower, I wouldn't use the bathroom for a week.

  6. I feel fear while traveling regarding washroom needs..how can I overcome it ?? give me a suggestion sir?

  7. I have a phobia of women's feet, particularly in nylons. Exposure therapy would likely work, but would require a willing partner to work with. Any ideas on where to start with that one?

  8. Hey man, great video. Wondering – I have a fear of travel. If I think about the idea of taking a trip somewhere, much less actually going on that trip, I get majorly stressed. As a side effect of this, I have developed anxiety over looking at maps. I just start obsessing about it if I even look at a map and it can get pretty bad for me. What would you suggest?

  9. Blocking memory reconsolidation has shown to cure spider phobia, and is currently going thru clinical trial at the University of Amsterdam for panic disorder and PTSD. Here's a video illustrating it: https://youtu.be/HDXWBHCusqs

  10. i have a huge fear of vomit… whether i am vomiting or someone else is… even if someone says "my stomach hurts" i automatically go into panic mode i will cry, scream, faint, or even physically hurts the person…. i am thinking about exposure therapy but 1st i dont know how it would work for my fear and 2nd i dont know if i could handle it… typing this post has taken and hour and a half because or typing the V word… HELP!!!

  11. I have a phobia of public speaking. It all started when my throat started to tighten up and my voices started to quiver when I had to read in class. later I got diagnosed with GAD but my question is does exposure therapy work when your phobia is the fear of your throat quivering and not working when nervous. Also do you have to be off your meds to use exposure  therapy.

  12. 1. Can I ask you – now, a year later, if a bee flies by.. are you more relaxed than before? Is this a one-time deal – once you got it you got it thing or does it have to be maintained?
    2. I totally believe you yet the the idea of watching a video of cockroaches… I don't think I can. I mean – I would really love to be rid of this phobia and I know this therapy works but honestly – It sounds like HELL to me. Even making such a list, just thinking of making this list I almost puke 🙁
    3. How come in ALL the phobia treatment shows they never show an example of dealing with roaches? this is probably the most common of all. (if we're talking animals).

  13. Our family has planned to go on a plane next year to Hawaii but my little sister has a lot of phobias that have to do with transportation like horses, planes, elevators, and escalators. We went to Canada recently and we had to go home early because of her phobias.

  14. I have overcome my fear of european grass snakes (yep, specificley them although non poisonous) and fear of public occations, but my phobia of rats and mice have become horrible now.
    I used to be able to pick dead mice from traps (not rats though, no way!) and i have even stomped baby mice and picking them up in their tails when they invaded a few years ago. But then 2 years ago i walked into a room with no lights in the ceiling. I had to walk up to a lamp on the floor, and there i encounterd the trap that always use to stand there, but this time with a dead mouse in it. I was only like 50 cm (roughley 2 ft) or something from the "kiwi with feet" as my brain interpreted the first millisecond of seeing it. From that moment i dream nightmares, and i don't even dare to open the locker to the trash bin under the sink knowing that there have been mice there. Trash cans and recycling stations are scary too.
    Stuff like bee's, spiders and mice are probably amongst the most horrible of the common ones since you theoreticley could encounter them in your home on a daily basis.
    I made up a list like you did and then i compared it with yours and i found out we basicley had the same fears. On the top i had mice/rats crawling on me and in the bottom i had seeing individuals on photo's or video's. I will try and overcome this fear, but only so i can take dead mice from traps and such. I will never ever touch a rat, never!

  15. I am terrified of loud noises like for example fireworks gunshots balloons. Would love to know how I can overcome this phobia

  16. I have issues with confronting individuals, particularly in my workplace. I've been able to face this fear slightly by speaking to strangers out on the streets on philosophical questions (which I very much enjoy). But when a situation arises where someone either said something I view as being rude or did something like litter, I become anxious and find it difficult to confront them.
    Sometimes it's as innocent as having a question on something profound that might have been uttered by an employee, other times they may say something slightly rude about someone. I guess I desire the courage to speak my mind in times of stress/fear.
    What can I do to start addressing this concern of mine?
    Great video by the way!

  17. I hv phobia of hairfall…. every time i see bald man i feel stress my head pain badly and n m losing my hair too due to anxiety. Plz sir help me i hv use this exposure process many time with image , videos , and at looking at real life bald man head too but my anxity is not going away competely

  18. i have fear of dots and it gives me panic attacks. I don't know how to overcome this fear, need help.

  19. I also have a bee/wasp/hornet phobia! I am allergic, so it would be unsafe to do a full exposure, but a few years ago I started doing audio/visual exposures. Today I can handle videos on my own time just fine!

    But anytime I'm outside in the spring or summer, I have issues over reacting to every stimulus, like a fly buzzing or a shadow in my peripheral vision. Not really sure how to get over that safely.
    On the plus side, I haven't been stung since my initial reaction, 16 years ago, so I guess I've gotten good at avoiding them lol

  20. I’m scared of wasp and bees like terrified I really wanna get over it but I just can’t I need some help

  21. I did the lowest staring point I watched a lot of videos on them and even watched some wasp fly outside and tried to observe them my next step is to go out there but I’m just scared I’m going to have a panic attack and there gonna hurt me

  22. Hey psych show are you a therapist? I remember talking with you about my fear it’s not getting better I’m just to scared is there a chance you could help me I’m always trapped in my house I don’t know how to live my life anymore

  23. I had a phobia since I was very young I smoke marijuana with some friends had a panic attack thought I was losing my mind I have been trying to overcome having these kinds of thoughts from a young age 16 now I'm 60 can you help

  24. Thank you for the video
    I have phonophobia.. It is the phobia of loud sounds…I get the panic attack when I see balloon… Here lightning sound and firecrackers… I just can't face that…so how can I treat that

  25. This was very inspiring!! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have a fear of failure— I'm an artist so I fear of doing a bad drawing and people pointing and laughing at it. Sounds SO silly but to me it has paralyzed me from drawing at all! Which is so sad! It comes from the perfectionist mentality. But it's actually just fear. I'm not going to die even if someone laughs. I think I'm going to try this and not edit everything perfectly, maybe allow a few mistakes.

  26. I have a question. I experience anxiety and panic when I’m at stoplights and other similar situations driving on the road. The thing is, the situations last around 1 min at a time. Everything I read about exposure therapy says to get in an uncomfortable situation and the longer you stay in it, the more the anxiety decreases. The situations that give me anxiety don’t really lend any options to sitting in them for 10 minutes, because when a light turns green, I have to go. It’s the law lol. So how can I structure some gradual exposure for myself that will actually be effective even though I’m only exposing myself for between 00:30 – 01:00 increments? Thanks for the video! Hope to hear back!

  27. I just searched exposure therapy because of my bee phobia. I didn't realize I'd find a video with that exact example! Maybe I'll start by watching some bee videos… Thanks for sharing!

  28. Because the greatest phobia is the fear of unknown!

    The less we know something, the less predictable it is to us. That's why we create insane scenarios involving the subject of out fears, where often in reality it's completely (or almost) impossible to occur. This is the source of most of the phobias – misunderstanding and the lack of information.

    Well, some of the phobias have a strong reasoning, like the fear of heights – you slip, you fall and you badly injure yourself or even die. But, most of them are completely ridiculous (fear of birds, or butterflies). Food for thought.

  29. Not sure if you’re still answering these. My fear is talking to people my own age. I can talk to adults and younger kids just fine, but I can’t get myself to talk to people my own age who I don’t know. Even if it’s a guy or a girl. What would be the hierarchical approach to overcome this fear by using exposure therapy? Would like to try on my own, but may see a therapist who could help me if needed. Thanks, great video!

  30. I have aids phobia. I’m scared of therapy because I don’t want exposure therapy and be infected 😩😩 help me

  31. I have the same phobia. As a Kind my fear was uncontrolable, but I would have reacted the same. I cant even look at pictures.

  32. I have arachnophobia and claustrophobia.
    the first one… I realized it about 5 years ago, I won’t enter a room if i know there’s a spider, i cry, i hyperventilate and can’t think straight…

    the second one… well i am afraid of not being able to breathe since i’m dealing with asthma. I used to be afraid of darkness too because it always felt like a tiny space when its dark…

    Oh and idk if it’s a phobia but I am scared of vomiting… i cry every time i do it myself, seeing hearing or smelling it is the worst for me…

  33. Oh man.. How do I overcome stage fright? I've been having stage fright and avoid getting on stage to perform piano for almost a decade! I do well in presentations but just playjng piano on stage makes me so so anxious!

  34. what about cockroaches? they are the worst and they can never be consider cute. they are disgusting and look like demons. (I have a phobia)

  35. I got too scared to start. I was too desturbed. Help. It's so bad I can't smell specific smells or hear certain words or be in a building with the thing that gives me anxiety.

  36. I have this luna park phobia where I fear going on ANY AND ALL OF THE RIDES but maybe if I started slow and did this thing you talked about I might overcome it?? huh…

  37. I have a fear of death. Idk how to try exposure on that… I can try with my phobia of snakes. Btw congratulations on alleviating your phobia. Happy for you!

  38. I have a phobia with fireworks, firecrackers, balloon popping and loud sounds. I am an adult and I really want to overcome this but its hard due to my panic attack 😫 its really hard for me especially during New Years eve here in the Philippines 😭

  39. I have social phobia and used to take the bus and metro hundreds of times and it's still not getting easier :/

  40. I have trypanophobia, and I want to try exposure therapy, but I'm not sure what the lowest level on the list should be for exposure. I can hold syringes without needles and the needles by themselves, and look at images of needles, but I can't currently see anything like an I.V being inserted in a movie and actual needles going into skin, much less going to get my necessary shots… What should I do?

  41. Hey I remember talking to you about a year ago about this hey so im still scared of bees and wasp its getting close to spring and im like omg freakig out i dont what to do im lost now i tried to get over it its jjst my overthinking overacting habbits

  42. I just found your channel. This is great! Thank you for doing your part to educate folks about the value of exposure therapy!

  43. Is seeing a lizard drop on your table while you are cleaning your room and run out screaming saying THERE IS A LIZARD ON MY TABLE AHHH!!!!!!! because that is what happened to me is that what is called a phobia of lizards?

  44. If youre stung by a bee, remain calm (lol) and remove the venom sack with a knife or something flat. You scrap it off in the direction it went in without pushing the sack of venom into you. It reduces the pain drastically. Also bees fly in certain patterns depending on their environment/job. They only attack if feeling threatened and will die once they sting you. If theyre feeling threatened they'll zig-zag in fast movements and make a louder buzzing. But they also sense the electro frequencies so if youre scared, you will scare them. Theyre actually the most adorable little insects with fuzzy legs.

  45. Does exposure therapy help with PTSD? Lol just curious. Actually I think it would be great if you could do some videos on it! I think you have the most honest and transparent videos about mental health !

  46. Does exposure therapy work by expectation subversion? Fear is not caused by things, but by the idea of things. If the idea that something bad will happen causes fear, that is merely a negative expectation. If the bad experience creates a certain level of anxiety, then the memory or expectation of that experience is the cause of that level of anxiety in the future.

    The anxiety from expectation is the average of all the interactions processed associated with the trigger: good and bad. In other words, the SUDs decreases over time as the ACTUAL neutral/good outcomes average out the strength of the EXPECTED outcome.

    Consequently, tossing in another bad outcome would bring that average back up.

    Would introducing other things associated with good outcomes affect this method in any way? Would the strength of the good feelings compared to the strength of the bad feelings determine whether aversion for the good trigger or acceptance of the bad trigger happens?

  47. Hey I have flower phobia since age of 12 . Now I'm age of 30 . I really want to overcome it…. because of it I'm avoiding family functions, meeting with people etc. I don't even get ready for marriage because I feel my life partner can make me scare once he knows about it.

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