Respiratory relief (R.R.) appeared to be a simple and rapid treatment for specific phobias and for the phobic components of more complex neurotic conditions (Orwin, 1971). The basic hypothesis was that the R.R., satisfying an intense need to breathe, if simultaneous with the presentation of a phobic stimulus, would inhibit the degree of anxiety previously provoked and that this inhibition would persist. The need to breathe was induced by voluntary restriction up to maximum voluntary respiratory arrest (M.V.R.A.). As in conventional desensitization (Wolpe, 1958), a hierarchy was drawn up and the patients were desensitized using R.R. instead of relaxation. Carbon dioxide-oxygen mixtures were introduced because CO2 is known to stimulate respiration, and it was expected that by intensifying the need to breathe the speed and effectiveness of treatment would be increased by the augmented respiratory relief (A.R.R.).
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