What Are The Benefits Of Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy For Anxiety?

Reviewed by Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

Published 12/09/2020

Treating symptoms of anxiety may include using techniques through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). The idea of using therapy to manage anxiety symptoms may seem overwhelming, but you can learn methods to calm your symptoms at your pace. The technique is proven to help people develop skills to control how you respond emotionally. Such methods help improve your well-being while helping to understand behaviors that trigger anxiety. CBT is used to treat symptoms of different anxiety forms such as social anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder. CBT works to reduce distorted thinking caused by anxiety by helping you identify, challenge, and replace negative thoughts with reality.

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How Therapy Helps Anxiety

Using cognitive therapy for anxiety, in many cases, is recommended when combined with other treatment options such as antidepressants. Using therapy to treat different anxiety forms has helped people understand the underlying causes of their worries and fears. People learn helpful ways to relax and gain skills such as problem-solving to encourage healthy coping. Therapy for your anxiety is tailored to meet your needs while addressing your symptoms and concerns. The duration of therapy needed depends on your situation and varies from person to person. It also depends on the severity of your anxiety. People may see significant improvement within an average of eight to ten sessions.

Sometimes different types of therapy are recommended or incorporated with CBT to address specific concerns. CBT techniques for anxiety may be used alone or mixed to encourage the best results. Other types of therapy people found helpful include EFT for anxiety (emotion-focused therapy), EMDR therapy for anxiety (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy), and hypnotherapy for anxiety. Overall, the goal is to learn how to calm your mind when you feel anxious. Learn methods that help you reduce your anxiety levels so you can overcome fears.

When considering therapy options, you can ask your doctor or mental health specialist about which type of therapy techniques would help you the most. If your anxiety poses problems, consider if you’re eligible for FMLA for anxiety if you need time away from work to focus on treatment. Anxiety disorders vary because they affect people differently. Your treatment plan, including medication, therapy, and self-help strategies, may differ from someone else diagnosed with the same condition.

What is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy?

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CBT looks at feelings and behaviors expressed and influenced by a person’s attitude, beliefs, and thought patterns. CBT aims to improve thoughts and confidence to make it easier to live with anxiety. People learn strategies for coping that play an essential role in practicing healthy behaviors. People with mental health concerns such as panic disorder and depression benefit from the techniques. It helps people focus on specific areas so they can see and adapt to change.

CBT has several beliefs that lay the foundation for the treatment process. It helps focus on what is considered unhelpful ways of thinking that lead to mental health concerns. Some may learn unhealthy behaviors, which lead to emotional difficulties later. CBT believes people can learn how to think and behave in a way that is beneficial to you. Also, a way to relieve symptoms to help people feel and act better includes learning new habits.

For example, unhelpful thoughts may affect how a person expresses confidence in themselves. As a result, they may choose actions or engage in behaviors that are self-defeating or negative. CBT helps people learn how to be comfortable with their feelings while focusing on the positives. People learn how to address aspects of their lives, such as social and emotional challenges while helping relieve emotional and physical pain.

People learn various techniques through CBT, such as identifying problems, developing awareness of thought processes, avoiding fearing the worst, goal setting, facing instead of avoiding fear, understanding the actions and motivations of others, differences between irrational thoughts and facts, and much more.

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When engaging in CBT, you gain tools such as homework assignments, journal writing, ways to relax your body and mind, skills to promote behavioral growth and change, and facing your fears by getting exposed to what causes them. You’ll practice strategies and complete exercises either in a group setting or one-on-one. You will participate in discussions that highlight your emotions and ways to confront them moving forward.

CBT is used for different conditions and situations, including social phobias, eating disorders, insomnia, anger, substance abuse, childhood depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), marital conflict, and more. CBT may provide relief or reduce symptoms of certain health conditions; other treatment options couldn’t resolve.

How CBT Works for Anxiety

Your thought process is challenged to help develop coping strategies that will work for you. The main idea is to identify negative thoughts and learn how to replace them with realistic ideas. First, you and your therapist will explore and identify your negative thoughts to understand your perception and raise awareness about how it makes you feel and why. Second, your challenge negative thoughts with strategies that include exercises to help avoid fear and recognize which fears stood out. Lastly, you’ll learn how to replace your thoughts with positive, calm statements you’ll say to yourself or in front of a group of peers.

The Significance of Thought Challenging

The idea behind thought challenging is by taking a daily situation and breaking up aspects of it to understand how your thoughts affect the outcome. You’ll break down each part of the situation, including understanding your emotions and what’s behind your fears. You’ll learn where and when to replace negative thoughts with what is more realistic. It may take time to break the habit, but you can practice the technique for as long as necessary. People find CBT helpful when they recognize feeling anxious and how it affects the body. People gain relaxation skills to learn ways to counteract feelings of panic.

Other Options to Combine with CBT

Working with a therapist for anxiety symptoms is a significant step in the right direction. Depending on the severity of symptoms, it may be recommended to use other forms of psychotherapy for anxiety to achieve results. Most of these options promote emotional balance and reduce stress. Exercise is commonly known to reduce stress and anxiety. You can engage in 30 minutes of exercise a few days a week to help relieve anxiety. Practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness are crucial to your emotional well-being.

Use technology to track your breathing and heart rate. Some can detect muscle tension as the body responds to stress. Use the technology to help you know when you need to relax through relaxation techniques. Some find a hypnotherapist for anxiety or hypnosis helpful for anxiety through therapeutic options. You can work with a local doctor when considering 'is there an anxiety doctor near me.'

Tips on Making Therapy Work for Your Anxiety

Managing your anxiety symptoms takes time, effort, and commitment. You have to learn what works and what doesn’t when considering your symptoms and personal goals. Many choose therapy because they want to learn how to face their fears instead of avoiding them. You may have good days and days you wished you felt better. It is essential to be persistent with your efforts and follow the advice of your doctor or therapist. It may take a considerable amount of time to control your anxiety, and if you follow through with therapy, you’ll build and maintain progress with lasting results.

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Therapy is just one component of your anxiety treatment. The results of your treatment also depend on how you take care of yourself. Your social life and activities you engage in also play a role in how you live with your anxiety. The actions you engage in should reflect the lifestyle you want now and in the future. Here are a few tips to consider as you look for ways to get the most out of your treatment to promote healthy choices and help you learn how to relax and achieve calmness.

  • Stay up to date about anxiety. Educate yourself on how to overcome anxiety, including treatment options, and how to take advantage of therapy sessions.
  • Establish connections with others. Enjoying the company of others keeps feelings of isolation and loneliness away. Join a local or online support group and ask if there are 'anxiety doctors near me', and who they would recommend. Connect with friends and do an activity together. Know who you can talk to when anxiety is bothering you.
  • Practice good lifestyle habits. Productive physical activity helps relieve anxiety and tension. Make an exercise routine that includes being physically active several days a week doing activities you enjoy. Limit alcohol and tobacco since these could increase anxiety levels as a stimulate.
  • Keep stress levels to a minimum. Some forms of stress and anxiety are good for you. But when you feel burned out or stressed to the max, it’s time to reevaluate the situation. Don’t take on more work than you can complete. Make time to relax each day.

Cognitive therapy for anxiety has helped people learn coping skills essential to moving forward in life. CBT includes working with a professional counselor to help you understand and set goals. Getting the help and support necessary includes working with your doctor to ensure your treatment plan stays on track.