Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety: CBT Effectiveness & Expectations

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cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety

If you have ever felt that anxiety is inhibiting your daily life? You may not be alone.

Experts say that about 29% of U.S. adults and 25% of adolescents aged 13 to 18 will experience anxiety during their lifetime. Out of this number, about 4% of adults and nearly 6% of teens have disorders classified as severe. While the experience of anxiety is different for each person, for many, it can become quite a difficult and painful way to live.

Some people experience anxiety only for a short time or in certain scenarios. Others have dealt with it during their entire lives. One of the most popular tools for dealing with anxiety is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy a.k.a. CBT. This more active form of therapy focuses on “identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns,” as defined by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Whether it’s general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorders, PTSD — or even phobias — cognitive behavior therapy can help.

Please read on to learn how CBT works, and how you might be able to implement Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety in your own life.

Understanding Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (also known as CBT) may sound like quite a mouthful, but really the concept is quite simple: recognizing and retraining your own thoughts and reactions in certain situations.

sad woman suffering from anxietyTry to remember a moment you felt anxious. Maybe you felt a little voice in your head telling you that you couldn’t complete a certain task. Or that you didn’t belong in a certain setting or with certain people. These are what we call irrational behaviors. Anxiety itself is one of the body’s natural responses to dangerous situations, but sometimes our brain applies it to situations where it isn’t appropriate.

CBT cuts down on irrational behaviors, replacing them with healthier thinking. This can help you reduce your anxiety in situations where it’s unnecessary.

Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety allows you to not only learn about the root factors that lead to your anxiety, but also take an active role in managing it. This can help you regain a sense of control of yourself — a comforting notion during moments of stress, and a useful life skill.

In general, most people start to see the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy between 12 and 16 weeks of treatment and practice.

Putting CBT Techniques Into Action

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for CBT composes a range of techniques that tend to fall into three major categories that address the different ways that our thoughts, feelings, and actions all interact and reinforce each other.

  • Cognitive
    Cognitive techniques help you become conscious of any negative thinking patterns and change them into healthier habits. For example, you may be conditioned to think about certain situations in a negative manner. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will help you identify these patterns and learn to re-frame the situation into a more rational and healthy way.
  • Behavioral
    This is generally the second piece following cognitive. Once you are on your way to recognizing certain thought patterns that are hurting you, behavioral techniques will help you translate this into changing your subsequent actions.
  • Emotional
    These techniques are not necessarily about fighting your anxiety head-on. Rather, they are designed to help you find activities and exercises that keep you calm, peaceful, and less vulnerable to a potentially stressful situation.

One thing to note is that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety is not one-size-fits-all! Just as anxiety is experienced differently by everyone, your CBT regimen will also be unique to you. Your mental health professional will help you craft personalized techniques based on your own situation.

How Apply Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques Into Your Life

cognitive behavioral therapy for anxietyHere are a few examples of commonly-used tactics that can be adapted to your own life:

  • Remind yourself that your feelings of anxiety are temporary. Try and speak these affirmations out loud or write them down.
  • Adopt physical behaviors that display calmness. These can include smiling, breathing deeply, or talking calmly, despite the fact that you might be feeling stress coming on. These physical signs can actually tell the body that it doesn’t need the state of anxiety, as there is no danger present.
  • Try and think through your anxiety. Challenge your negative thoughts. For example, you may be anxious because you fear a certain consequence. Try and figure out what the consequence is, then remind yourself that it isn’t that big of an issue.
  • Work on re-framing tough situations. Thinking of the big picture when you are anxious can help you keep some perspective about the situation. It will remind you that it may not be as big a deal as your anxiety is telling you.
  • Learn to recognize the telltale signs that you’re about to get anxious, especially bodily indicators like a raising heart rate or sweating. This enables you to preemptively use the other techniques to try and cut off anxiety before it starts.

Does CBT for Anxiety Really Work?

If you’ve been dealing with anxiety for several years, it’s understandable that you may be a bit skeptical to try something new. However, several studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is highly effective for dealing with anxiety. In fact, it is generally accepted as one of the primary methods of treating anxiety. CBT is also used to help with a variety of other mental and emotional disorders:fearful young woman feeling trapped by the crowd

  • depression,
  • anger,
  • PTSD,
  • and more.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy’s effectiveness is partly due to the way it changes certain functions of the brain. For example, one study demonstrated how a 10-week therapy regimen caused changes in key brain structures related to self-control and regulation of emotions. The more successful the treatment, the more pronounced the changes. The researchers also noted that certain areas of the brain were more interconnected after treatment.

The effectiveness of CBT has allowed many people to conquer their anxiety and other challenging emotional conditions. In turn, helping people take back control of their lives. The skills you learn through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will also stay with you for the rest of your life — even when you’re far away from your therapist’s office.

healthy living to prevent a panic or heart attackLifestyle changes in nutrition or exercise can also be beneficial to some people suffering from anxiety. Medical professionals may recommend using dietary supplements as a complement to your CBT. These products, like Tranquility Labs’ own Tranquilene, use combinations of different enzymes, vitamins, extracts, and minerals to help support a healthy emotional state and reduce anxiety. Check with your medicalal provider to find out if you have any nutritional deficiencies, and whether they might be negatively affecting your anxiety level.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety

cognitive behavioral therapy for anxietyHere are a few important points to keep in mind when if you are thinking about using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety.

  • There is a great deal of research suggesting that CBT is helpful for anxiety. This is because it promotes changes in the brain by altering existing thoughts and behavior patterns.
  • No one CBT regimen is alike, though there are several common techniques that can be personalized. Your mental health professional will work with you to develop techniques based on your own situation. Like learning any new behavior, you will need to practice them diligently in order to see optimal results.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy is versatile. Your mental health professional may recommend combining CBT with other therapy techniques like exercise and/or dietary supplements.

Has Cognitive Behavior Therapy for anxiety worked for you? We’d love for you to share your stories with our community.

Have a question or looking to learn more?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment in the field below!

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2 thoughts on “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety: CBT Effectiveness & Expectations

    1. Hello Lori! Thank you for writing in. The best place to learn more about CBT and a provider is to contact your primary care doctor or insurance provider and they can give you recommendations/referrals. Best of luck in your journey!

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