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Chapter 23. Anxiety > Simple Phobia

Simple Phobia

A simple phobia entails having persistent and excessive fear of a specific object or situation that presents no realistic threat. The person is fine except when faced with having to deal with the feared object.

Simple Phobia

Barry worked for a mid-sized advertising firm. He performed well and got along with people. Married, with two children and a love of outdoor activities, all aspects of his life seemed to be in place. The one thing about him that made people chuckle was that he always took the stairs rather than the elevator. He claimed he wanted the exercise. This made reasonable sense, except on occasions when they were late and needed to rush to the meeting. He would respond that he did not want to break his routine.

When his company decided to move to new headquarters on the 28th floor, Barry almost panicked. He decided to see a psychiatrist. He explained that for as long as he could remember, he was terrified of elevators. The psychiatrist diagnosed him as having a phobia and recommended behavioral therapy.

After Barry learned progressive relaxation techniques, he and the psychiatrist created a hierarchy of increasingly anxiety-provoking images, starting with thinking about taking an elevator, looking at an elevator, getting into an elevator with the door staying open, getting into the elevator and having the door briefly close, going a couple of flights on an elevator, and going on a long elevator ride. Each week, they practiced relaxation and then imagined progressively more stressful situations. After six sessions, Barry was able to imagine being in an elevator without feeling flooded with anxiety. The next step was “in-vivo” exposure: real-life practice. Accompanied by his therapist, Barry tried using an elevator. Having had the imaginary exposure, the experience was much less stressful than expected. As he practiced, his anxiety continued to decline and he was able to stay with the company.



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