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Main article: Implosive therapy

Flooding is a form of behaviour therapy for the treatment of phobias and other anxiety disorders.. It is called an exposure treatment, where the patient is exposed to their feared object . In doing so the realisation that they have encountered their most dreaded object or situation, and come to no actual harm, can be a powerful form of therapy. Flooding was invented by psychologist Thomas Stampfl in 1967.[1].

Theoretically the anxiety provoked is thought to habituate over time and, by remaining in the situation until the intense fear passes, people can more easily make the cognitive changes and parallel behaviour changes to overcome their phobia.

The exposure may occur in the actual presence of the feared object (eg a spider), in which case this is said to be in vivo exposure,. Alternatively the procedure may involve looking at pictures of the feared stimulus, or producing internal imagery (so called imagianal approach)

Psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe carried out an experiment which demonstrated flooding. He took a girl who was scared of cars, locked her in a car and drove her around for hours. Initially the girl was hysterical but she eventually calmed down when she realised that her situation was safe. From then on she associated a sense of ease with cars.

Flooding therapy is not for every individual, and the therapist will discuss with the patient the levels of anxiety they are prepared to endure during the session.[2]

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