If You Have An Anxiety Disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Could Work For You
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated May 21, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown
Anxiety is something all people experience in life at one time or another, but not all who experience it will require help with it. There are many situations in life when anxiety is temporary and something that a person is easily able to handle on their own. However, there are also many different types of anxiety disorders that can make it helpful for someone to get help from a therapist. If you are struggling with an anxiety disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy could be the right option for you.
What Is Anxiety?
When most people think of anxiety, they think about being worried about something. This is anxiety on a smaller level. Many things in life can cause us to worry and have a fear of certain situations. However, for some people, the anxiety that they experience gets in the way of their normal daily functions. It becomes disabling to them. They are caught in a constant state of worry, dread, and fear which can lead to other mental health challenges such as depression, and physical symptoms as well.
In the field of mental health, there are several different types of anxiety disorders. The main ones that people are familiar with are generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. However, there are also additional ones such as selective mutism, separation anxiety, and phobias to specific things. Also, many people don't realize that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are related to anxiety disorders.
Are Anxiety Disorders Common?
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health challenges, and it isn't reserved only for adults. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) shares that "approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder with most people developing symptoms before age 21." They also share that in the United States there are around 40 million people that are dealing with anxiety struggles each year.
The good news is that anxiety disorders are very treatable. There are many kinds of therapy and alternative treatments that are helpful to people that are experiencing symptoms due to anxiety. However, the bad news is that even though anxiety is treatable, the ADAA says that "Only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment."
What Are the Options For Anxiety Therapy?
Along with regular therapy options that you can receive from a psychiatrist or psychologist, there are also alternative forms of treatment that some people find helpful. Self-care is a big part of alternative treatment. It's important to make sure that you are getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, and taking care of your physical self. Simple changes in your daily routine can make a difference when it comes to your anxiety levels.
Some people also use things such as yoga, journaling, acupuncture, art therapy, and aromatherapy to treat their anxiety. However, in this article, we are going to focus on a traditional form of therapy that is very effective in treating anxiety.
If you have an anxiety disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy could be a great therapy option for you.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy or talk therapy. A therapist will work with you to lead you through the sessions. This type of therapy may last from 6 weeks to 3 months depending on the patient and the therapist's recommendations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT works to help patients change and control their thought process. Because those who are experiencing anxiety tend to have negative or racing thoughts, the theory behind CBT is that if the person can learn how to control and change their thoughts, they will be able to control their anxiety.
Therapist focus on teaching patients skills that will help them cope with their anxiety to learn how to overcome them. Most of the therapy is not going to be focused on talking about the past or where the fears and anxiety are coming from. Instead, it's going to be focused on learning skills that the person can begin to use going forward to improve their situation.
How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety Work?
There are several simple steps that you will walk through in CBT. The initial meeting with the therapist is going to be used to get to know you and to help you become familiar with the process. The therapist is going to want to know what your goals are for coming to therapy. This session will help them to identify the best form of treatment for you.
The first step in CBT therapy is for your therapist to help you identify what areas you are struggling with in life. It may be a very specific situation that you are aware of like a recent divorce, or it could be that you have dealt with the symptoms as long as you can remember.
The next step in the process is for you to start to learn and identify the beliefs, thoughts, and emotions you have that are contributing to the problems you are having. Your actions and emotions are going to be impacted by the things you are thinking about. It's important that you become aware of these thoughts so you can learn how to recognize when you are thinking them to interrupt them.
Once you know what thoughts and beliefs you are struggling with you must start learning how to identify when you are thinking them. This could include things like journaling to help you become aware of your thoughts during different times of the day and how they are impacting you.
The final step that is needed to complete CBT is to learn the helpful thoughts that you need to focus on that will help you transform your behavior. The more you practice using these thoughts, the more it will become a habit for you to think about these things instead of thinking the negative thoughts that were hurting you before.
What Is Important During CBT
When you are going through CBT, there are a few very important things that will contribute to the success of the therapy. The first thing is that you can trust your therapist and that you are willing to be open with them. Because CBT is dealing with your thoughts and feelings, the only way your therapist can know how to help you is for you to be honest with them about what you are experiencing. If you don't tell them or withhold information, you might not make the progress that you were hoping for. They can only work with what you are willing to share.
Another thing that is important to remember is that you need to be willing to do the work that your therapist gives you to do. If you don't do your assigned homework, you aren't going to be able to make real progress between your sessions. Don't allow yourself to get complacent with the work. The harder you work, and the more you stick to your plan, the better results you are going to see.
It's also important that you don't expect unrealistic results. Regardless of how great your therapist is, you aren't going to experience immediate results. It takes time to make progress. If you give up early, then you won't have the breakthroughs that you could experience otherwise. It can take several sessions before you start to see any kind of results.
How To Find An Anxiety Therapist Near Me?
If you have anxiety or have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you will want to find a therapist that is experienced in working with people that have anxiety challenges. You will also want to make sure that you are looking for a therapist that has the credentials required to be a licensed therapist. It's worth taking your time to do a little research into finding a therapist instead of just working with the first one that you come across.
It's also helpful to look for reviews before starting to work with someone. Ask people that you know have been to therapy to see if they have a recommendation on who you should meet with. If you believe that CBT would be a good form of therapy for you, you can talk to the therapist to see if they agree with you. Remember that if you are working with an experienced and educated therapist, then you should trust their instincts and make sure you listen to their thoughts as well as what type of therapy options would work for you.
If you don't have a therapist in your local area to work with, you can also try finding one online. BetterHelp offers online therapy options, and it's easy to get started. The most important thing is that you get the help you need to cope with and overcome anxiety.
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