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Dr. Haefner's Corner "Ask the Doc", Question 4

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"I would like to know if you have any strategies for dealing with intense anxiety.  I become anxious just thinking about a jump lesson, let alone a show or event.  My anxiety amps up my horse, and then we don’t do nearly as well as we could.  My horse is a saint and takes very good care of me over jumps, but he does feed off my anxiety.  My main instructor and several clinicians insist that I am extremely well prepared for the level at which I’m competing, so I’m not overfacing myself or my horse. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide!" ~ Erin

Erin – One of the several bright spots in your story is that your intense anxiety, while impacting your performance, is not preventing you from participating in the sport. This opens the door for one of the most time honored and empirically validated approaches for tackling anxiety. It is called “In Vivo Systematic Desensitization,” more commonly known as exposure therapy. “In Vivo” refers to direct or live exposure to the anxiety provoking stimulus. “Desensitization” is exactly as you would imagine. It refers to inhibiting avoidance reactions long enough for you to “get comfortable” with the problematic situation or stimulus. “Systematic” refers to a compassionate measured approach where you start with situations that evoke milder anxiety, and then work your way toward more challenging situations as you master the less provoking ones. (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)



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