Niki was an 11 year-old girl who became so obsessed with her physical health that she was sometimes unable to attend school, and rarely played with friends. In addition to avoiding situations where she feared she become ill, she also obsessed about non-communicative illnesses like cancer and heart attacks. She would check with her parents repeatedly about every little ache and pain she felt. By learning to identify and eliminate the compulsions Niki got much better quite quickly. As Niki got better, her mother said, "I am so proud of her! She's learning skills and strategies that will help her throughout her life! Learning how to use these coping skills will give her the freedom to enjoy so much more in life.”
Sylvia was a 30 year-old woman who used to hide in her closet when someone knocked on her door. She wouldn’t answer the telephone. She wouldn’t even venture outside if she thought she might have to interact with others. Our first couple of sessions we communicated by passing notes back and forth, as the thought of talking directly to me was too anxiety provoking. Sylvia learned anxiety management tools. She also learned about cognitive therapy, which operates on the premise that how we feel is determined by what we are thinking. By learning how to examine, and change, her thoughts, she began to see other people as less threatening. When she was ready she started doing real-life, graded, planned, systematic exposure therapy. Gradually she became less and less anxious, culminating in getting a job where she interacted with people everyday.
Mark was a 38 year-old man who experienced his first panic attack while driving to work on a crowded highway one day. He began avoiding congested highways by changing his work schedule. Then he had a panic attack on the highway when there was no traffic. So he started avoiding highways altogether. A panic attack on a rural road led to getting a new job closer to home. Within a year his avoidance behavior had generalized to the point where he no longer left his little community and the adjacent communities. He too learned cognitive and behavioral techniques to better manage anxiety. He too started on a program of exposure therapy, both in imagery, and in real life. Within six months of starting his goal, he was traveling to neighboring states.