Desensitization therapy may refer to two different types of treatments that might be suggested when people have reactions to substances or situations. One of these is considered a behavioral psychological method and the other is the province of allergists. In other words, one treats phobias and the other treats severe allergies. Both use gradual, incremental exposure to reduce severe reactions to these things.
When people discuss desensitization therapy as a means of treating phobias, they may also refer to this as exposure therapy. If a person has a significant fear of something like heights, flying, or leaving the home, a therapist could work with that person to gradually help him undergo extremely gentle and minimal experiences that help increase tolerance of the thing feared. Many different things can be employed, depending on the fear, including pictures, film, smell and others that allow the person to experience the fear in small increments. People do so with a therapist at their side, until they are ready to begin experimenting with some element of the fear on their own.
Another form of desensitization therapy is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). This is most often used to treat traumatic conditions like posttraumatic stress disorder. As people recall memories of stress they may track something moving with their eyes. This form of therapy may relieve trauma, though others find traditional therapies more effective.
Just as the person recovering from a phobia or trauma benefits from professional help, the other form of desensitization therapy requires medical assistance, too. Instead of treating fears, this type of therapy treats life-threatening allergies. The two types of desensitization therapy bear some similarity, since both use small doses of exposure to the fear or allergen, in order to gradually sensitize the mind or body to the phobia or allergen.
With allergies, in a protected environment, people would gradually undergo increasing exposures to a known allergen. This has to be done with great care, since it is quite possible to induce an anaphylactic reaction if dose is too great. To be very careful, doctors and other medical personnel are at the ready with medicines like epinephrine, should the body react to the substance administered.
Over time, tiny amounts of a substance given in allergic desensitization therapy may help end allergic reaction. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it is effective in enough cases that it may be recommended when people have severe allergies to a high number of substances. Danger or life-threatening reactions regularly may suggest trying this therapy because otherwise, a person may be unable to pursue a normal life due to constant fear of exposure to allergens.
With phobias/trauma and severe allergies, the ability to live a normal life may be restricted. In both cases desensitization therapy may be of use in allowing people to pursue much more regular lifestyles. Phobia treatment can have an excellent rate of success and allergy treatment may have a good outcome. Each treatment is worth exploring when these problems are severe.