Can Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Treat Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, restlessness or uneasiness that typically occurs when we are faced with an imminent situation or one that we have little control over. While it is normal, and even helpful, to experience some level of anxiety from time to time, problems occur when anxiety is out of control, causes phobias or makes it difficult for you to live a productive and healthy life, hold a job or maintain important relationships.
Anxiety causes emotional strain on the individual, and it can also manifest physically in a variety of ways including causing shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, gastric and intestinal distress, insomnia, sweating, trembling and dizziness. In some cases, these physical conditions can only be controlled with medication, but in most cases, they can be effectively treated by managing your anxiety by enlisting a cognitive therapist.
When a cognitive behavioral therapist addresses anxiety we approach the problem from many different angles and target three areas in particular:
- Our emotions
- Our behaviors
- Our thoughts
In addition to addressing the biological and environmental components of one’s life, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective intervention that addresses all three of these areas. It helps individuals to become aware of their negative thought patterns and self-doubt, learn how to behave proactively when faced with anxiety-inducing situations and feel empowered to utilize their most effective coping strategies as well as develop new ones.
Cognitive Components that Impact Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy provides clients with opportunities to openly examine their own thoughts and uncover beliefs that may be unhelpful. Examples of this include realizing that you think you will fail at a job interview before it begins (catastrophization) or believing that a car crash is imminent anytime you get behind the wheel (fortune telling). This discovery process provides opportunities for change which through confronting one’s faulty logic. Cognitive recognition also provides clients with a clearer understanding of how beliefs influence their mental and physical state when certain situations present themselves. It can also alter ‘self-talk’ and replace it with kinder, more loving and forgiving dialogue that decreases anxiety and increases opportunities for success.
Behaviors and Anxiety
Cognitive behavioral therapy examines how individuals act when faced with a specific situation. The goal is to identify and shift maladaptive habits that people with social anxiety or other anxiety disorders tend to repeat and sabotage potential. Clients are then provided with behavioral experiments to change behavioral patterns and adopt effective coping mechanisms to use in a variety of anxiety-inducing situations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy offers opportunities for clients to consider how their thoughts and actions make them feel. By changing how you think about an anxiety-provoking situation and how you act when faced with it, you can change the way that you feel about that situation and sometimes, turn it into a situation that you can turn down the volume of your anxious feelings. This can be a powerful discovery and one that teaches clients how to actively participate in choosing how they will react and what their path will be.
Reach Goals Sooner with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
With cognitive behavioral therapy, clients often see results in as little as a few sessions. This is a major advantage because it has the potential to increase their confidence level and cause them to believe that they can overcome unhealthy anxiety. With their newfound hopefulness, many move forward in a more positive direction and achieve a sense of calm when faced with situations that previously triggered intense anxiety.
Trust and a Strong Client / Therapist Relationship
For cognitive behavioral therapy to be the most effective, it is important that the client is comfortable with the psychotherapist. This is especially true for clients who are prone to extreme anxiety when situations leave them feeling uncomfortable. The highest level of comfort often develops naturally when the therapist treats the client as an equal and an integral part of the healing process. Effective therapists include clients in developing their treatment plan and ask for feedback after every therapy session. Therapists must also realize that each client is an individual, and no one treatment plan will work for every person. This type of attitude fosters mutual respect and cooperation between the therapist and the client. It also increases feelings of hopefulness and curiosity about the potential for therapy that can reduce the number of sessions it takes to reach the client’s goals of reducing or eliminating anxiety and increase opportunities for success.
Anxiety disorders can take over your life and have a crippling effect on your ability to realize happiness but are also one of the most treatable conditions in the mental health spectrum. You can take positive steps to change how you react to stressful situations. As a licensed psychotherapist in San Diego, cognitive behavioral therapy is one solution that I most often recommend to help clients with anxiety walk the path toward happier, more productive lives. If the time is right to realize positive change in your life, contact me to schedule a consultation.