Desensitization Techniques for Anxiety

Environmental Desensitization Techniques

Elements of our environment can have positive or negative effects on us. For instance, music can raise our blood pressure and pulse, or similarly lower it. Because of this, listening to soothing music--especially soft classical music--can help lessen one's feeling of anxiety. Similarly, sounds themselves can be soothing or disturbing. Waves or the sound of a fountain can have a calming effect, whereas sirens tend to increase anxious feelings.

Smells also can either increase or decrease anxiety. Sour, acrid smells tend to be unpleasant, but soothing scents such as lavender can actually help quiet a person.

Changing one's environment and/or clothing can also have a positive effect. Going for a drive in the country or a walk in a park often helps ease anxiety. And colors like green and blue are soothing, whereas red and yellow tend to excite emotions. Simply changing one's outfit, therefore, can be effective for desensitizing anxiety.

Physical Desensitization Techniques

Most doctors believe that proper breathing goes a long way to reduce anxiety and suggest patients take yoga classes or try meditation. Exercising and dancing also help relieve anxiousness. During physical activity, the body releases endorphins, which give it a feeling of a natural "high." Under these conditions, it is much more difficult for the body to produce serotonin, a natural neurotransmitter linked with anxiety when present in high doses.

Chemical Desensitization Techniques

Tranquilizers have been used for decades for desensitizing anxiety, as has nicotine for smokers and alcohol for many other people. These drugs, however, often have side effects and long-term consequences.

Alternative practitioners have found that many natural herbs can reduce anxiety without side effects. Some of the most effective herbs include: kava kava, ginseng, valerian, lemon balm, St. John's wort and chamomile.

Mental Desensitization Techniques

Getting into a really good book or movie, especially if it is a comedy, is a quick way to lessen anxious feelings. Laughter has often been called the "best medicine," and it works for disorders such as anxiety, too.

Some people find saying positive affirmations effective, and talking with a trusted friend or counselor is also a way to desensitize anxiousness. Most desensitizing techniques for dealing with anxious feelings involve distracting the anxious person's attention away from the anxiety. There are a limitless number of ways to do this, but most basic techniques can be categorized into one of four main areas: environmental, physical, chemical and mental. Here is a look at each type in sequence. They can also work effectively in tandem.