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The Unintended Risk of Playing It Safe

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-art-and-science-emotions/201903/the-unintended-risk-playing-it-safe

psychologytoday.com

The Unintended Risk of Playing It Safe
Safety behaviors. They sound like a good thing, right? After all, most of us have probably heard or uttered the words, "safety first!" at some point in our lives. And when feeling anxious, safety behaviors, defined as actions taken with the intent of preventing, escaping from, or reducing the severity of a feared outcome, may lessen the anxiety that we feel in the moment.

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Safety Behaviors May Not Be Helpful

Safety Behaviors May Not Be Helpful

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.

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Exposure Therapy

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.

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Slowly decrease safety behaviors

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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