Sometimes we are our worst mental enemies; CBT might just be your mental savior.
Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the world. There are many different types of anxiety disorders like social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and panic disorder, but they all have similar components and symptoms.
The good news is that anxiety disorders are also among the most highly treatable mental health conditions. And there are many different treatment avenues that you can go implore. CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is a highly effective yet extremely noninvasive way to free yourself from anxiety and get back to the business of living.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal response that the brain and body have to stress. It produces a feeling of fear that brings on the “fight or flight” response. The fight or flight response is the way that the body looks at a situation and decides whether it should fight or flight. But that flight or flight response can become chronic, or generalized, and without a tie to a stressor. And when that happens, a person can develop an anxiety disorder that can be extraordinarily disruptive and alter their ability to function daily.
There are Several Different Types of Anxiety Disorders
There are several different types of anxiety disorders like panic attacks, phobias, or just relentless worry and obsessive thoughts. Anxiety therapies, like cognitive behavior therapy, are different from anxiety medication.
Cognitive behavior therapy isn’t meant merely to alleviate the symptoms of your anxiety disorder. It attempts to figure out the cause of your underlying fears. And in doing so, find a way to cope with a situation when it arises rationally. It is a way to teach people the skills they need to address their anxiety. And it seeks to calm down your anxious feelings and logically get past them using a series of coping tools.
Since anxiety disorders can be considerably different, the types of therapies that people use should be tailored to address an individual’s diagnosis and symptoms directly. A person who is having panic attacks will have a different treatment course than someone who is suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The good news is that when you find the right treatment plan, according to the American Psychological Association, many people notice a significant improvement in just eight to ten sessions.
Anxiety Disorders and Inner Talk – How CBT Works
The one thing that almost all anxiety disorders have in common is destructive inner talk. It is what fuels the anxiety and fear they feel. They tend to see situations as ar more threatening and harmful than they really are. And then, when they start to feel anxious, the fear takes over.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most common therapy used for the treatment of anxiety disorders. It is highly effective for conditions such as phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and many other conditions.
CBT seeks to address the distortions and negative patterns in the way that people view both themselves and the world around them. It involves two separate components. Cognitive therapy is used to look at how cognition, or negative thoughts, bring about anxiety. And behavior therapy seeks to look at how anxiety triggers certain behaviors and reactions.
At the heart of cognitive behavioral therapy is the notion that it isn’t external sources that bring on anxiety. It is our thoughts and the way that we feel about the events that do. Therefore, it isn’t the event itself that determines how you feel, it is the way that you perceive the event. So anytime there is a situation in your life, there is the real situation, and then there is the way that you interpret it.
Anxiety Results From Your Interpretation of a Situation
The way that you interpret an event is through your own beliefs, attitudes, and expectations. People who suffer from anxiety disorders tend to view things negatively, and their patterns of thinking typically lead to emotions that provoke fear and anxiety.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy targets the negative beliefs and thoughts that someone has, and seeks to correct them with a more positive way of viewing things to reduce anxiety. The idea being, if you can alter the way that you think about something, you can modify your feelings about them. And then you can gain control over your reactions.
CBT for Anxiety is all About Challenging Thoughts
Cognitive restructuring or thought challenging, is the practice of continually challenging your negative thought patterns that fuel your anxiety and fear, and replacing that pattern with a more productive, realistic, and positive way of thinking. It involves a three-step process:
Step One – Identify negative thoughts when they arise
When someone has an anxiety disorder, they view things in their life as way more dangerous than they are. For example, if someone has a phobia of spiders, and they see a spider, they immediately think it is life-threatening.
Although the rest of the world may see that it is an entirely exaggerated way to look at a tiny spider, thoughts are compelling for the person with an anxiety disorder. CBT involves the therapist asking the patient exactly what they were thinking when they become anxious.
Step Two – Challenge those negative thoughts
Once you can identify your negative thoughts, a therapist will help teach you how to look at them. The second step involves questioning where scary thoughts originated. Then once identified, testing out whether the predictions formed in your negative thinking have ever been a reality. Sometimes therapists will use strategies like conducting experiments, weighing what is better avoiding your fears or worrying about them, and then concluding whether the thing you fear most will likely happen or not.
Step Three – Overriding negative assumptions with realistic ones
Once the patient has identified the irrational expectations of a situation and the ways that their negative thoughts have distorted it, they are encouraged to replace the negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones.
Sometimes all it takes is a phrase that you can say to yourself when an anxiety-provoking situation arises. Saying a standard phrase can sometimes jar the person back into reality. And then force them to look at a situation in a more rational light regarding the most likely outcome.
Give CBT for Anxiety a Try it Might Just be the Cure You’ve Been Searching
Either experiencing anxiety on your own or loving someone with anxiety, can be very difficult. There is a constant churn of fear that can lead to them overreact, react in destructive ways, or generally always feel ill at ease.
Although there are many treatments for anxiety, CBT may offer a cure to help ease not just the symptoms but to overcome anxiety altogether. Its effectiveness is exceptionally high. And when used alongside with medications and other therapies, you can learn to live a less worrisome, more productive, and healthier life.