CBT for Anxiety

CBT for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders can seriously affect the quality of your life. Having obsessive thoughts or panic attacks, or suffering from a phobia, can be extremely frightening and debilitating. Using CBT therapy for anxiety is a highly effective method helping people with anxiety disorders learn how to feel more at ease and in control, in their lives.

Getting a diagnosis of anxiety can be extremely worrying. Identifying the problem is the first step in controlling anxiety, stopping worrisome thoughts and starting to enjoy life again. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a structured, interactive talking therapy.

A trained CBT therapist will help you to understand how your thought patterns and behaviour influence your situation. They will also help you to find new ways of thinking and strategies to develop new, more positive behaviour patterns.

Learning How To Cope

For those with anxiety disorders, psychotherapy is often the most effective treatment option. CBT is a form of psychotherapy and unlike anxiety medication it treats more than just the symptoms. While medication might alleviate symptoms temporarily it doesn’t get to the root cause of anxiety.

CBT can help you understand the cause of the problem and bring greater awareness to your thoughts. The CBT process is designed specifically to teach you how to cope with your fears by uncovering the underlying cause of your worries. It also helps you identify and implement behaviours and thinking which alleviate anxiety. It enables you to see worrying situations in a new way and develop tools for dealing with them more effectively.

Some of the anxiety issues that cognitive behavioural therapy can help includes:

How Many CBT Sessions are Needed?

Therapists will tailor CBT to deal with your individual situation. The length of treatment will vary depending on the type and severity of your anxiety, but can be anything from 8 to 24 sessions or more. The number of sessions you need will depend on factors such as:

  • The type of disorder
  • The severity of your symptoms
  • How long you’ve had your symptoms or have been struggling to cope with your situation
  • Your level of self confidence
  • If there are other issues you are dealing with such as depression

If the anxiety is mild to moderate, then many people note significant improvement after 8 to 12 sessions. If the anxiety is more severe and accompanied by symptoms of depression and difficult social or family situations, many people may find up to 24 or more sessions are needed to enable them to achieve more solid and lasting improvement. However, it varies in individual cases and some people with severe anxiety may find they need fewer sessions, whilst certain individuals with mild anxiety may find more sessions helpful.

How does CBT for Anxiety work?

CBT uses two main therapeutic components to bring about a reduction in anxiety levels. The cognitive aspect of cognitive behavioural therapy will examine negative thoughts that contribute to feeding your anxiety, whilst the behavioural aspect enables you to look at how you react in situations that trigger anxiety and explore alternative behaviours you can engage in to reduce anxious symptoms.

The idea is to increase awareness and change your perception of situations in order to reshape thinking and yield more effective behaviours and positive emotions. CBT is generally a short-term therapy, which aims to equip you with actionable solutions to present issues. It does not address issues from your past in great depth so it’s not the best therapy for working with issues such as trauma or abuse. Other therapies can be more effective in these areas.

What can you expect when you meet your therapist?

During the first session, you and your therapist will work together to reach an understanding of what your issues are and why they are problematic. You’ll identify the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that come up during your daily life. You will then discuss your treatment plan and how long you can expect it to take to make a difference.

Your therapist will help you to identify negative thought patterns, break them down, and see them in a new, more positive light. This often involves doing homework between sessions as you go about your life and encounter various situations that trigger your anxiety.

For example, a woman is anxious about going to a party. She identifies her fear that no one will talk to her and she will end up standing around alone looking awkward. CBT can help her challenge these thoughts by asking questions such as:

Is it likely that no one will talk to her?

Did someone she know invite her to the party?

If no one talks to her, can she initiate a conversation with someone? Perhaps she can plan to compliment the host’s home to start up a conversation.

How realistic is it that she will end up standing alone in the middle of the room while everyone points at her and laughs?

How often does that actually happen in real life?

If she doesn’t enjoy the party, can she just go home early?

There are a lot of ways to challenge negative thoughts and look at situations in a more realistic light. Some therapists will use workbooks or journals to help you break down thoughts, which can be a very enlightening exercise.

In What Other Ways is CBT Helpful?

By undergoing a successful course of CBT for anxiety you will discover it also teaches you coping mechanisms that can be applied to other situations. CBT teaches you to challenge negative thought patterns and will enable you to change your behaviour. It’s a skill you can use if you come up against a challenging person or situation in the future. You will find it easier to respond with confidence when you are fully aware of how to interpret a situation more positively. Using CBT can help you develop the skills to keep any negative afterthoughts to a minimum, and feel confident you have dealt with a difficult situation with integrity.

If you are plagued with obsessive thoughts or uncontrollable anxiety, don’t be afraid to seek help. Turning to psychotherapy is not a sign of weakness; it is actually the first step to gaining strength and taking control of your emotions. Seeking CBT for anxiety is a positive and empowering move.