Monday, January 27, 2014

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety - Does It Work?

Will cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety be effective? Understanding the methodology behind this type of therapy is an important first step to answering this question. CBT is typically engaged in for a specific period of time and with a specific goal in mind, unlike talk therapy or psychoanalysis, which could continue for years. The goal is to modify thoughts that underlie unwanted behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is founded on the premise that behaviors are responses to our own thoughts, rather than responses to external events. Because thoughts are learned, we can isolate and unlearn our negative thoughts. After we are able to establish a positive pattern of thinking, our negative reactions will stop. Under the care of a professional therapist, cognitive behavioral therapy breaks down a big problem into smaller, more manageable problems. This allows the patient and therapist to work together to resolve these smaller issues. For example:

Jim is a hypochondriac. He deals with imaginary aches and pains on a daily basis. He visits his doctor frequently with new symptoms for which the doctor can find no cause; nevertheless, Jim continues to be certain that he has a life threatening problem. Jim puts a lot of time in on the internet, searching websites for more information about various symptoms and illnesses.

Jim and his CBT therapist would go through a process of isolating and articulating his negative thoughts, and then putting positive thoughts in their place. Jim and his therapist might come up with this solution:

"The aches and pains are all in my mind. I know my body is strong and healthy, because it has been fully checked out by my doctor. Because I am confident of my good heath, I am really looking forward to getting back to active living. I will let my pains go, because they are not in my body, but rather in my mind. Instead of simply going home and going to bed, I intend to revel in my new found strength and vitality by going on an energetic walk."

This illustrates the process of replacing negative with positive thoughts in order to modify behaviors, even though it is an extremely optimistic example. It is easy to see that cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety does have potential to help sufferers. Working with a trained therapist is critical to the success of a CBT approach. People who suffer from anxiety often hold onto their beliefs with a lot of conviction. Trying new and more healthy ways of thinking is what the trained professional will be coaxing the patient to do. This type of therapy would be extremely challenging were it not for that professional guidance.

So is there a self help way to do cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety? Strictly speaking, no. But framing solutions much like CBT is an approach that is common with a number of self help options. Such an approach includes:

  • Identify negative thinking
  • Acknowledge that perceived threats are in your mind -- not real.
  • Look for another approach to thinking that points to healthier behaviors.

As you are considering your self help options, it will be useful to understand the components of cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety can be expensive, so for this and many other reasons, a sufferer may want to select a self help option. Look for options that focus on the current problem (not options that delve into a person's past) and for options that encourage the sufferer to move slowly and thoughtfully toward healthier mental patterns. Neither CBT nor similar solutions are fast fixes. Even though cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety takes time and effort, it is not as lengthy a process as some other forms of therapy. With dedication and perseverance, cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety can and does work for many people.