People like therapy because it helps them discover the root cause of their worries. They look at situations in a new light and learn several ways to relax. Specifically, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help people cope with anxiety while finding ways to solve their problems. CBT can provide you with various tools for overcoming fear and how to use them effectively.
What is CBT?
It’s a kind of treatment where the patient talks with a therapist. The session will then focus on changing their attitudes, beliefs and thoughts that affect their feelings and behaviour. They will then find ways of how to cope and deal with their problems.
It’s a combination of cognitive therapy – where you examine how you think about things with behaviour therapy – and the things you do.
CBT can help you in dealing with situations not based on feelings but by changing your perceptions. For example, when a person is invited to a party, any thoughts they have about it will affect their emotions, as follows:
- If you want to go, the emotion you’ll have is happiness or excitement.
- If you’d rather watch a movie, your emotion is rather neutral.
- If you don’t want to go, you’re feeling sad, maybe anxious.
The idea of going to a party can elicit various emotions from different people. So, if you have anxiety issues, any negative thoughts you have will only heighten your anxiety. The idea behind CBT is to change the way in which you think by changing the way you feel. Below are some methods that can help achieve that goal.
1. Thought challenge
Cognitive restructuring’ is another name for this process. It’s designed to challenge any negative beliefs that heighten your anxiety. You’ll then replace them with positive and realistic views. This process involves the three steps listed below.
Seek out your negative thoughts
When you’re anxious, your perception can exaggerate the threat, if any. For a person with a germ phobia, the thought of touching another person’s hand may seem dangerous. It’s an irrational fear, but it can prevent people from doing the rational thing. So this strategy involves discovering what your thoughts were the moment you started feeling anxious.
Fight your negative views
In this next step, the therapist will help you evaluate any thoughts that provoke your anxiety. This includes:
- Examining the evidence of your terrifying thoughts.
- Analysing harmful beliefs.
- Assessing the likelihood of any negative predictions.
This strategy also involves:
- Conducting experiments.
- Studying the advantages and disadvantages of worrying or avoiding the things you fear.
- Determining the likelihood of your anxious thought turning into reality.
Swap your negative thoughts for realistic ones
Identifying your negative and irrational views is the first step. Now, you have to replace them with more truthful and positive ones. Meanwhile, the therapist can assist you with forming calming statements when faced with scenarios that boost your anxiety levels.
Understandably, this technique will entail multiple practices to break your habit. So, when you’re alone, CBT will teach you to:
- Recognise your body signs for getting anxious.
- Learn relaxation techniques that will counter your anxiety and panic attacks.
- Confront your imaginary or real-life fears.
2. Exposure process
People believe that avoiding anxiety is the best solution. For example, people who are afraid of heights may choose to drive for hours to avoid driving over a tall bridge. However, such a strategy is not often feasible. It will not only inconvenience you but avoiding it will also make you fearful of confronting such situations again.
The process involves repeatedly exposing a person to scenarios that they fear. By doing so, your anxiety level will drop each time you’re faced with a similar situation. The therapist can expose you in two ways:
- You imagine a frightening situation.
- You confront a real-life problem.
You can use this therapy alone or as part of your CBT session.
3. Complementary therapy
There are also other various strategies for dealing with anxiety, including:
- Exercise, which can relieve both anxiety and stress. Even 30 minutes of exercise, three to five times per week, is enough. However, try to accomplish at least an hour of aerobic exercise each day to obtain the most benefit.
- Mindfulness meditation and muscle relaxation, if practised regularly, can keep your anxiety level down. Meanwhile, you experience a sense of positive emotional well-being.
- You can use sensors to measure your psychological functions, including breathing, heart rate and muscle tension. This will help you recognise your body’s response to anxiety. Afterwards, you’ll learn how to control such emotions through various relaxation procedures.
- A hypnotherapist can put you into hypnosis – a deep state of relaxation. With CBT, you can try different techniques that can help you face your fears. Also, you’ll learn to see the situation in a new light.
Admittedly, there’s no easy solution for treating anxiety attacks and disorders. However, CBT helps you to face your fears instead of avoid them. You’ll need to work with your therapist and strictly follow your treatment plan. Some may feel discouraged with its slow pace, but anxiety therapy takes time. If you’re patient, you’ll reap the rewards.