How does flooding therapy work?

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My two cents: You have to give consent before trying this therapy. This can be dangerous if you are not strong enough or have certain skills. After I built my focus skills with meditation, I went to my triggers on my own and sat til my nervous system calmed.

I did not realize it was called flooding therapy.


“During flooding, you’re exposed to your most feared stimuli, such as heights or spiders, in a safe and controlled environment for an extended time.

During this time, you can use calming techniques to help you through the process, but your therapist makes no particular effort to alleviate your fears.

Your therapist, however, may likely start with some psychoeducation before beginning the flooding.

They will likely explain the method of flooding therapy — that the nervous system is sending a false alarm to your brain about your phobia and that only sticking it out through the whole exposure can get rid of this false alarm.

In other words, once your body’s fight-or-flight response has exhausted itself, your brain can recognize that nothing bad has happened to you.

The goal is to positively condition your mind to stop reacting severely when presented with that trigger in the future.

Flooding session times vary but may last 2-3 hours. Very often, the goal is to complete the treatment in one session only — often lasting several hours. In some cases, the client may need to repeat the process several times.

While flooding is understandably quite stressful for the client, it can also be stressful for the therapist. In a studyTrusted Source of 25 participants with specific phobia, researchers found that clients released slightly higher levels of stress hormones during flooding than during gradual therapy.

While therapists showed no excessive release of stress hormones during gradual therapy, they did show heightened stress hormones during flooding therapy.

Flooding example

If you live with claustrophobia, a flooding session might involve sitting in an extremely small, crowded room for several hours. This might even involve an elevator or a closet.

A proper flooding session would require that you stay in the room until your panic response has fully subsided.

The therapist would make no effort to help you work through the panic, and there’s no option for avoidance..

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on August 11, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Wow, the timing of this article is incredibly on target.
    My garden has exploded. Fifteen watermelons are simultaneously ready.

    *This next part demonstrates C-PTSD. This narrative is rather lengthy but not triggering to most. Skipping to the last paragraph sums up my problem.*

    Wondering what to do with the watermelons and other vegetables, I somehow decided that offering some produce to my therapist was a good idea. She lives a distance, and before COVID, we meet via Zoom. & I haven’t seen her in person in 3 years. I guess I didn’t think this through. She responded enthusiastically and offered to meet at a hiking point about 40 minutes away and bring her dogs as animals help me regulate.

    Revealing my fears felt way too exposing so I feined cheerful agreement. I agreed to meet because telling my vast worries felt even more dangerous. Now, the body and mind are coping by dissociating and visions of self-harm.

    I won’t back down because underneath this terror is the desire to move past the need to isolate. However, wishing for a car crash is unproductive. This kind of self-driven exposure therapy is overwhelming and leaves me hating myself even more for this ridiculous weirdness.

    Let me say, Exposure Therapy isn’t for the faint-hearted!!!

  2. Congratulations.

    I accomplished flooding, it was scary and took multiple tries

    Sitting in the middle of what you fear until it calms down is not for the timid

    PTSD still haunts me without my fight it flight firing

    It did make life easier as I can navigate things, as you do

    It is not easy and takes an emotional toll

    If I would have to give a speech

    I would die every day until it was over

    It has never been okay even meditating as much as I have

    I guess I would not function at all without all my work

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