Anxiety can be debilitating and interfere significantly with our ability to live life the way we want, impacting work or school performance, relationships, and more. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown in studies to help reduce anxiety symptoms by teaching people coping skills for dealing with anxiety when it occurs. CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing negative thoughts to improve mood or behavior.
CBT focuses on changing unhelpful thoughts or behavior patterns.
It’s the most common type of therapy used to treat anxiety. CBT teaches you how your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors interact with each other in a situation that makes you anxious. CBT focuses on three main components: thoughts (cognitions), emotions, and behaviors. Learning about these components can help reduce your symptoms by changing unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to your anxiety. CBT follows the following process:
Identify Unhelpful Thoughts
CBT therapy can help you determine whether the thought patterns you’re experiencing are accurate or unhelpful. CBT therapists will ask about the accuracy of your thoughts and whether they are distorted and help you identify other types of thinking you could consider as an alternative.
CBT therapy can also help you understand how emotions contribute to anxiety symptoms, stress levels, and overall mood. CBT can help you develop coping strategies to deal with the negative emotions you’re experiencing. CBT therapists will help identify the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
CBT is focused not just on changing thoughts but actions too. CBT therapists will ask you what things you do to either cope with anxiety or try to avoid it. CBT therapists can help create an action plan that will reduce avoidance behaviors and increase coping skills when anxiety occurs.
Challenge Unhelpful Thoughts
CBT will help you understand the thoughts that contribute to your anxiety. CBT therapists believe that when we have a thought, it creates an emotion or feeling which leads us to take action (behavior). CBT therapists can help you determine whether your thoughts are accurate or unhelpful, and which action is best to take for the situation. CBT therapists might ask you questions such as:
- What would be a more realistic thought?
- How might other people in this situation think/feel about it?
- How might I feel if I didn’t have this thought?
CBT therapists will then help you come up with a more helpful or accurate view of the situation that leads to healthier thinking and actions.
Once CBT therapists determine your unhelpful thoughts, they’ll help you practice new ways of thinking and acting in the situation. CBT therapists might ask you to think about what another person would do in this situation, or how they’d choose to act. CBT therapists will help you identify a healthier response and ways of coping with anxiety that is more realistic for the situation. CBT therapists will ask questions such as:
- What evidence do I have that my thoughts are true?
- How could I act differently than before?
- How might these actions impact my overall mood and anxiety levels?
CBT therapists will then help you practice new behaviors to replace your old unhelpful thinking patterns. CBT therapists may also give you homework to complete between sessions, such as writing down negative thoughts or keeping a “worry journal.” CBT therapists believe that when we change our unhelpful thoughts, it will lead to changes in feelings and behavior. They also believe that when you develop healthier thinking patterns and actions, your symptoms of anxiety can improve or diminish completely.
CBT therapists will help you come up with a plan of action that can change your thoughts and feelings. They might have you practice new behaviors at home or in other situations so they become more natural ways of coping. CBT therapists will then monitor your progress to see if there are any problems or setbacks and will change the plan as needed, depending on how you’re doing with it.
CBT can help reduce anxiety symptoms by teaching people coping skills for dealing with anxiety when it occurs.
CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing negative thoughts to improve mood or behavior. It’s a collaborative process between the therapist and client that uses CBT exercises as tools for change. CBT therapists ask questions about your thought patterns, feelings, and behaviors in certain situations to help you understand how they affect each other. CBT therapists will then help you change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety.