Exposure-based treatment may sometimes be accompanied by additional elements. In systematic desensitization, relaxation is added to the exposure to the anxiety-eliciting situation. Relaxation is not essential for successful exposure however. Relaxation exercises focus on the physiological component of anxiety and tension. The patient learns, first in the therapist's office and later at home, to relax various muscle groups progressively. It is essential that the patient first learns to recognize tension in the different muscle groups. Accordingly, he can apply the relaxation effectively when the early signs of tension manifest themselves.
In behaviour therapy, relaxation exercises are applied much more widely than merely as a component of systematic desensitization. Relaxation training has been an important component of various treatments, most notably in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Relaxation training can also be useful in treating tension headaches and disturbed sleep.
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