Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety: What is It and How Does It Help?
In this article, we will find what cognitive behavioral therapy is, how cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety is practiced, where you can find it and useful points to consider after reading this information.
To start, it is good to be aware that many people suffer from anxiety and it is viewed to be the most common mental health condition, however, fewer than 45 percent of sufferers receive the treatment they need according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
One reason this statistic is so high is that there is no one simple solution to anxiety. Studies show that anxiety is best dealt with directly and is not a trivial issue to be skirted around by sufferers who hope it will resolve itself. There are several established and effective ways to tackle the anxiety in your life, and these include therapy and medication. The type of therapy this article focuses on is called cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety?
In brief, CBT helps you to change how you approach situations. You and I often experience a type of domino effect from our thoughts. They influence our words, which in turn determine our actions. Our actions define our habits which make up our character. By working on thought patterns and behaviors that are not helpful we are first able to recognize them and from there, restructure them. By changing our feelings towards life, our approach is changed.
CBT is a type of therapy that works on negative thought patterns or behaviors to recognize them before restructuring them. In other words, cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety can help you change how you approach a situation.
For example, someone you know is about to begin a new role at a new company.
If they feel anxious due to the new environment, by being a stranger to their co-workers and the processes that are followed, they may be tempted to think that they will never be able to do what is required of them and may even seriously think about calling in sick.
Feeling neutral may lead your friend to consider that they have previously had jobs that may have required some getting used to in the past. They may think that work is only work and not much else. They may even plan to grab some takeaway when their time frees up after work, or some groceries to cook themselves and their family dinner. Their focus is on other aspects of their life and tasks that are relevant at different times of the day.
What if they feel thrilled to start the new adventure and excited to face any challenges of the role head-on? Perhaps they cannot wait to meet their new colleagues and find themselves shaking hands all around the office. This can be a positive experience.
Different people will react to situations according to their temperaments. Our unique characteristics, beliefs, and assumptions we have about our surroundings will fuel distinct thoughts, feelings, and actions for every situation.
Toolbox to change thought patterns.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety works to help you change how you feel about a set of circumstances that you are in by giving you a toolbox to help you change your thought patterns. As someone who experiences anxiety your natural thoughts and emotions are negative, and these displace any positive thoughts and feelings.
If you ever feel a high level of fear or anxiety, or panic, these are often caused by how you think about a particular context, and not as a direct reflection of the situation itself. Anxiety can also vary and be experienced at a range of intensities. Feeling anxious is understood by science as a useful physical and mental reaction to fear or nervousness.
Techniques to manage anxiety vary. One is to create a space or a buffer area between your mental processes and thoughts, your emotions and feelings, and also your actions. By having what feels like extra space to know and understand your capacity, the result is you often have more liberty to handle circumstances more comfortably. It does not inhibit you from achieving goals, nor does it make things worse.
The route to improved experiences and emotions that are not uncomfortable is helped by the ability to release unhealthy thoughts. This enables you to consider other more optimistic alternatives objectively and so impacts how we experience our circumstances.
Having consistently pessimistic thoughts and feelings about a given situation will affect the way to act towards it. If you are dreading having to attend an event, there is an increased likelihood that you will find an excuse not to go.
Breaking a chain of events.
A person’s thought patterns are established through repetition. And if you have a series of these experiences, there is a high likelihood that each time you will feel the same nervous, anxious, and scared feelings. Over time, your thoughts and feelings become entrenched, impacting your behavior and a pattern is established.
Understanding and examining this pattern is a key benefit of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety. Not only can you be taught to observe the patterns in your life, but how to proactively change them, and the emotions linked to them. Through practice, CBT can help prevent similar future behavior.
Just like a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, cognitive behavioral therapy assists people to see the links in the chain leading to anxiety and depression. An individual’s thoughts, feelings, actions, and physical sensations are intimately linked. If the person takes action which disrupts the downward spiral leading to anxiety it is very beneficial in treating anxiety and depression.
Case study to illustrate the point.
Consider a person who is affected by low self-esteem. They try their best to procrastinate on attending or avoiding social situations because when they are in a crowd of people, they feel overwhelmed and this triggers their anxiety.
This person is invited to meet up with a group at a restaurant, and they know it will be a popular event with a large turnout of people. Their immediate inclination is to think, “I will not go. I will be asked questions I will not be able to answer well. I will be embarrassed and people will think I am weird.”
Their feelings of nervousness climb and finally at the last moment, they message the host to apologize for missing the event as they are not well. This is accompanied by relief and the anxiety subsides. But the person never comes to the point where they can effectively deal with this anxiety they feel at social gatherings.
The chain linking social gatherings to deep feelings of anxiety is reinforced. They continue to strengthen a downward spiral of thoughts, emotions, and actions.
While using cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety the person would work on reducing their anxiety in social gatherings. To do this they would:
- Be taught and learn exercises that will relax body and mind when receiving a social invitation.
- Record their thoughts and feelings when they first start to feel anxious.
- Discuss this list with their therapist.
- Replace negative thoughts and feelings with those that are more realistic.
This technique results in the person reframing their pattern of thinking and is called cognitive restructuring.
Therapists find that as the patient proves to themselves that they are improving at things that had previously resulted in feelings of dread and stress, they are encouraged to be more robust and continue in the act of opposing that fear.
Christian counseling for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety.
If you are looking for additional help for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety beyond this article, please browse our online counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment. We would be honored to walk with you toward a place of healing and hope.
“Spooky Forest”, Courtesy of Filip Zrnzević, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Old Forest”, Courtesy of Patrick Hinz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forest Glade”, Courtesy of Lukasz Szmigiel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bright Forest”, Courtesy of Razvan Mirel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License