desensitization

desensitization
1. The reduction or abolition of allergic sensitivity or reactions to the specific antigen (allergen). SYN: antianaphylaxis. 2. The act of removing an emotional complex. SYN: hyposensitization.
- heterologous d. stimulation by one agonist which leads to a broad pattern of unresponsiveness to further stimulation by a variety of other agonists.
- homologous d. loss of sensitivity only to the class of agonist used to desensitize the tissue.
- systematic d. a type of behavior therapy for eliminating phobias or anxieties: the patient and therapist construct a list of imagined scenes eliciting the phobia, ranked from least to most anxiety producing; the patient then is trained in deep muscle relaxation, and is repeatedly asked to imagine him or herself in the presence of the least anxiety-producing scene on the list until the patient feels fully relaxed while doing so; the procedure is repeated for each scene on the list until the patient develops the capacity to feel relaxed with any of the anxiety-producing scenes; real life scenes are then substituted for the imagined scenes. SYN: reciprocal inhibition (2).

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n.
1. (hyposensitization) a method for reducing the effects of a known allergen by injecting, over a period, gradually increasing doses of the allergen, until resistance is built up. See allergy.
2. a technique used in the behaviour therapy of phobic states. The thing that is feared is very gradually introduced to the patient, first in imagination and then in reality. At the same time the patient is taught relaxation to inhibit the development of anxiety (see relaxation therapy). In this way he is able to cope with progressively closer approximations to the feared object or situation.

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de·sen·si·ti·za·tion (de-sen″sĭ-tĭ-zaґshən) 1. the prevention or reduction of immediate hypersensitivity reactions by administration of graded doses of allergen; called also hyposensitization and immunotherapy. 2. in behavior therapy, the treatment of phobias and related disorders by intentionally exposing the patient, in imagination or in reality, to a hierarchy of emotionally distressing stimuli. Common forms of desensitization include flooding, implosion, and systematic desensitization (qq.v.).

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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