From Panic to Peace: Using CBT to Manage Anxiety

Published on January 27, 2024

From Panic to Peace: Using CBT to Manage Anxiety

Published on January 27, 2024

What Is Anxiety Disorder and CBT Therapy?

Before fully exploring CBT Therapy and its immense benefits, it is important to first understand what anxiety is. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders in the US, with over 40 million adults suffering from at least one form of anxiety. Anxiety is a mental state of fear or intense worry. While everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, those with anxiety disorders experience frequent and often regular bouts of anxiety. Anxiety disorders affect your daily life.

There are several types of anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety, panic disorder, social anxiety, and phobias. Generalized anxiety is a pervasive feeling of dread that can often last for weeks or months. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety that causes frequent panic attacks. People who suffer from social anxiety experience anxiety in social situations. A phobia is an intense, often debilitating fear of a specific situation or object. There is often an overlap between the different anxiety disorders and with other disorders like OCD and ADHD.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a viable treatment option for anxiety disorders. CBT therapy involves changing your thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors to manage issues like anxiety. Those suffering from anxiety disorders have seen many positive effects with CBT behavior therapy.

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety can come with many symptoms, and while it may look slightly different from person to person, some symptoms are fairly ubiquitous. One of the most common symptoms is a feeling of unease or a sense that something bad is about to happen. It may be accompanied by trembling, shaking, heart palpitations, and sweating. You may feel nauseous or develop a stomachache. People with anxiety often have trouble sleeping, focusing, and making decisions. You may be irritable and stressed. These symptoms often get stuck in a feedback loop, feeding on one another and making them worse, thus increasing your anxiety.

female anxiety patient being comforted by a cbt therapist

The “fight-or-flight” response is an evolutionary trait in humans and many other animals. It allows us to assess a potentially threatening situation and decide whether it is in our best interest to face it head-on or flee. This response activates physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. For people suffering from anxiety, situations that are not threatening may still trigger this response. They experience the stress as though the situation were real.

Several negative thought patterns can fuel anxiety. Catastrophizing occurs when you assume the worst about any situation. Instead of considering the most likely and realistic outcomes, you imagine the worst that could happen. Overthinking and spiraling can lead your thoughts down a dangerous path. You may have trouble controlling the amount of thought you give to something that’s bothering you. Your mind may get out of control with imagining and analyzing different scenarios. This may lead to spiraling, in which you get so deep into your thoughts, that it’s difficult to come out.

Introducing CBT Therapy

CBT behavioral therapy can be highly effective in treating anxiety disorders. The CBT process is guided by core principles. First, the way we think can influence our behavior. Thus, if your thoughts are misguided, your behavior will be as well. Patterns of misguided thoughts and behavior can lead to disorders like anxiety. Finally, people can reshape their thoughts and behaviors into healthy, productive mindsets and actions.

Cognitive behavior therapy involves reshaping thoughts and behaviors so that you can approach issues rationally and with the proper perspective. CBT therapy is collaborative in nature. The therapist guides the patient through exercises and provides techniques to help them better understand their anxiety and the problems with their ways of thinking. As with many forms of therapy, the patient must take an active role in their treatment.

CBT utilizes two main strategies: exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring. These strategies help patients face their fears and reshape their perceptions regarding their anxieties.

Conquering Anxiety With Exposure Therapy

If something causes anxiety, you are likely to avoid it. Exposure therapy allows you to face your fears in a safe setting. The exposure method is determined based on the specific fear. In some cases, the patient is directly exposed to their fear while in other cases they are exposed through imagining or even virtual reality. Over time, the fear gradually weakens. For example, if someone has a phobia of spiders, they may spend time in the presence of spiders, gradually working up to holding one. If someone has anxiety about family interactions, they may spend time imagining scenarios with their family.

Exposure therapy is not easy for patients, especially during initial stations. A person’s fear is real, even if it is irrational. They may be extremely uncomfortable when exposed to these situations. However, many patients are successful. For example, some patients with social anxiety were gradually able to attend gatherings and spend time in public without an anxiety attack.

Reshaping Your Thoughts With Cognitive Restructuring

While they may seem arbitrary, your thoughts can have a powerful influence over your anxiety and behaviors.

Cognitive restructuring allows you to change the way you think about things that cause you anxiety. While they may seem arbitrary, your thoughts can have a powerful influence over your anxiety and behaviors. Cognitive restructuring equips you with strategies to reframe your thoughts.

One strategy is to identify negative thoughts and determine whether they are valid. Isolate the thought and then try to think of factual evidence that either refutes or confirms those thoughts. You will likely have trouble finding evidence to support your negative thinking.

You can also try to reframe your thoughts into positive and helpful thoughts. For example, if you have anxiety about taking a test, you may spend a lot of time worrying. Instead, work to think positively about the test and use your time to study.

Living in Peace

Anxiety can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. With therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, you can take control of your anxiety by facing your fears and reshaping your thought processes.

For those struggling with anxiety, there is hope. CBT behavioral therapy can give you the power to overcome your anxiety and live a fulfilling life. Contact Family Priority today and get in touch with a qualified CBT therapist to get the help you need!

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