Tracy Ross and Dr. Michael Bordieri discuss the idea that Halloween can be a fun and effective time to practice exposure therapy to help treat anxiety issues.
Bordieri says Halloween offers people the chance to interact with things they fear in different ways than normal.
“An example of this is a snake… I have the image of the spitting cobras or the giant 80 foot anacondas hiding in the lakes. It’s not uncommon that when we think about or are exposed to something we’re scared of that those functions, those things that come to mind are all really scary ones. But it turns out that snakes have lots of other things about them, too, and if you spend time interacting with snakes you can learn lots of other things about them,” Bordieri said. “And what I’m suggesting here is that when we face our fears it’s not necessarily that we’re just getting our fear to go away, we’re learning lots of new things about the thing we were afraid of. That it’s not just ‘Well, the snake won’t bite you.’ But it’s also, ‘The snake is doing other things I didn’t notice before.’”
Bordieri says the new learning that takes place when we interact with something we’re afraid of may help people get over their anxiety. Anxiety and fear lead people to run away from whatever triggers those reactions, but Bordieri says having no contact with things you are afraid of can actually make anxiety worse. Exposure therapy encourages people to lean into their fears to gain the experiential knowledge that can lessen fear.