One of the leading experts in treating nervous illness, and seemingly unsolvable problems Dr Claire Weekes tells the story of a patient whom she treated for agoraphobia.
This condition is a fear of open and enclosed spaces, the patient in question had been treated with behaviourism, this involved getting used to the stimuli, i.e. going out (a) in the hope that it would bring about a better response (c). He was taught to go as far as the front gate and if he felt panic, he was to return. The patient continued in this way, going as far as the first lamp post, then the second lamp post and at anytime if he felt panic return. This treatment, known as Systematic De-sensitization was so “successful” that eventually he was able to move freely around the small town where he lived. Then he was able to go on holiday and go on aeroplanes, cars, buses, and visit restaurants, all of the places an agoraphobic would avoid.
However after returning from holiday this person went into his local Bank and stood in a queue waiting for the same teller who had served him so often before to serve him again.
He then had a huge panic attack and was totally bewildered as why this had happened.
Claire Weekes goes onto explain that the person had been taught how to get used to the actual places but never been taught how to deal with the panic.
Let us look at what really happened in this instance.
The memory alone of so much suffering came back to remind the sufferer of previous times he had stood in the Bank and panicked. You see the person had to wait whilst the teller had his Bank book; there was no quick escape should it be required and that of course that Should not happen thus creating anxiety, then becoming fearful of the symptoms thereby creating panic!