Anxiety disorders are, unfortunately, a common reality for a large portion of Americans. They are the most common mental illness in the United States, accounting for 40 million Americans total. Fortunately, cognitive behavioral therapy offers positive results for most sufferers.
What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, unites thinking processes, or cognitions, with behavior. In other words, CBT shows you how you think and how that influences what you do. CBT takes focus away from external events that trigger anxiety and helps the client focus on his or her perceptions of external events.
Different people have different perceptions of the same events. A person with no anxiety might get an invitation to a holiday party and think, “This sounds fun! I love meeting new people!” In contrast, someone with anxiety might think, “I don’t want to go. What if I do something stupid? What if I say the wrong thing?” Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps that person find where those thoughts come from, what triggers them, and how to change them.
What Does a CBT Session Involve?
Many CBT treatments exist for anxiety and accompanying disorders, such as depression. A session often starts with psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” although this may not be your preferred treatment method. Mostly, CBT focuses on coping strategies.
Some coping strategies vary by individual and others work for most clients. For instance, many cognitive behavioral therapists teach clients to physically slow down when they feel anxiety triggers. This often involves deep breathing, talking, and walking slowly through triggering moments, and slowing down your thoughts. Clients are also taught about the automatic negative thinking (ANT) they employ and how to replace an ANT pattern with rational, helpful thoughts.
A cognitive-behavioral therapist may prescribe alternative therapies, including acupuncture, yoga, and meditation. Most clients find relief from anxiety with a combination of the therapies listed above.