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Safety behaviours can be damaging as they play a critical role in the maintenance of anxiety. We rely on crutches to get us through low-risk situations and then believe that the crutches were the reason we survived.
The result is that we seldom have the courage to attempt the situation without the crutches.
The treatment for anxiety disorders involves intentionally approaching the feared situation without the safety behaviours.
It teaches us that anxiety does not last indefinitely but wanes over time. The urge to use the safety behaviors also decrease. We learn that our feared outcomes are unlikely to happen or that we can tolerate this uncertainty.
It is argued that safety behaviors need to be gradually reduced over time and not be eliminated all at once.
A study suggests that people may benefit from exposure therapy even if they do not eliminate all their safety behaviours at once. Continued use of unnecessary aids may prevent individuals from learning that they don't have to rely on safety behaviors.
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