Definition of desensitize in US English:


(British desensitise)


[with object]
  • 1Make less sensitive.

    ‘creams to desensitize the skin at the site of the injection’
    • ‘Applying lidocaine cream to your forehead may relieve migraine pain by desensitizing the nerves that trigger it.’
    • ‘Ice cold beverages desensitize the taste-buds and prevent the evaporation of the volatile components that contribute aroma.’
    • ‘Capsaicin first activates the pain receptors, causing a mild burning sensation, but upon repeated application to the skin it desensitizes the receptors and relieves the pain.’
    • ‘Achieving good flavor qualities in an ice cream presents specific challenges: low temperature desensitizes or dulls the taste buds, so a potent flavor is required.’
    • ‘With fewer receptors, the dopamine system is desensitized, and the now-understimulated addict needs more and more of the drug to feel anything at all.’
    • ‘In some cases, an allergist may recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots) to help desensitize your child.’
    • ‘If your symptoms are especially difficult to control, your doctor may recommend allergy shots to desensitize you to dust mites.’
    • ‘Topical application of agents including caries preventive agents, tooth desensitising agents, surface anaesthetic and plaque controlling agents.’
    • ‘The goal is to desensitize you to specific allergens and decrease or eliminate your need for medications.’
    • ‘Confused by this, I rub along the sides of my mouth, desensitizing my over-active nerves.’
    • ‘Once the cause of your allergy has been ascertained and a positive skin test obtained, then a specific vaccine can be created to desensitise you against the allergen that is triggering your symptoms.’
    • ‘The CAM practitioner injects extracts of suspected allergens under your skin with the goal of eventually desensitizing you to them.’
    • ‘Slapping the injection site accomplishes two things: it mildly desensitizes the area and it reduces the chance of the horse reacting to the prick of the needle.’
    • ‘Allergy shots are used to desensitize you to certain allergies.’
    • ‘The treatment works by desensitizing the animals' immune system to a protein residing within their blood vessels.’
    • ‘The treatment works by desensitising the immune system so its reaction to a particular substance is reduced over time.’
    deprived of sensation, without feeling, numbed, benumbed, dead, deadened, desensitized, insensible, insensate, senseless, unfeeling
    deaden, deprive of sensation, benumb, render insensitive, dull
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    1. 1.1 Make (someone) less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty, violence, or suffering by overexposure to such images.
      ‘the media had desensitized him to the horror of violence’
      • ‘Many of them have also been desensitized to acts of extreme violence.’
      • ‘It also desensitizes young people about the world they live in,’ she says.’
      • ‘By watching these clips to see how they are achieved you probably no longer find them so shocking - you've become desensitized to them.’
      • ‘When you're a nurse, you see so much sadness and pain on a daily basis that you almost have to desensitize yourself to it just to stay sane.’
      • ‘People are desensitized to violence - you see so much of it on a regular basis on TV and in the movies, or you see these stories on the news about people dying from gun crime, but it doesn't sink in.’
      • ‘Young people, he said, share a common culture that has been shaped by television shows that desensitize youth to violence and often have revenge as a central point in the plot.’
      • ‘The constant plague of dreams had desensitized him to its images, and so he now only saw the visions fly past his eyes without actually feeling anything.’
      • ‘Living by a prison was a culture shock at first for many of the families, but as time rolled on, everyone became desensitized by it.’
      • ‘I cringe, but I'm desensitized to most of the stuff I hear.’
      • ‘In the same way, most of us are desensitized to the pervasive presence of the written word in our daily lives.’
      • ‘The war's cruelty has shocked a country that thought it was desensitized to violence.’
      • ‘And yet, as a whole, people are so desensitized to the whole idea of explosions and molecules that they barely even stop to think about how this could effect the world.’
      • ‘Of course, once you start watching it, you'll have to get desensitized in a hurry.’
      • ‘Are we being desensitized to these graphic pictures?’
      • ‘Do your think your children are becoming desensitized by what they see and hear?’
      • ‘As violence of any kind is legalized, the society becomes desensitized, resulting in an increase in violence and crime.’
      • ‘Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that if we desensitize ourselves enough, we can condone any immoral action.’
      • ‘And so, in America we desensitize ourselves to what is about to occur.’
      • ‘A child who repeatedly sees violence or insensitivity towards himself, other human beings or animals becomes desensitized himself.’
      • ‘With increased exposure to such scenes, we become desensitized to the fear of blood which has been instilled in us.’
    2. 1.2 Free (someone) from a phobia or neurosis by gradually exposing the person to the thing that is feared.
      • ‘The goal is to modify dysfunctional cognitions and to desensitize patients to the fear and anxiety associated with certain situations.’
      • ‘At this time, the patient is open to suggestion, and can be desensitised towards fears, phobias, pain and personal issues.’
      • ‘I mentally made myself a reminder to desensitize her to balloons.’
      • ‘This finding may have therapeutic applications; however, it may also be applicable in advertising to desensitize fear of a dangerous product, such as cigarettes.’
      • ‘Sexual offenders often begin this process with nonsexual physical contact and may proceed with sexual discussions in order to desensitize the victim.’