How can Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) help with anxiety?

CBT has been given a lot of press over the last few years.  This is largely due to it being an evidence based therapy meaning that organisations such as the NHS can see the differences that are being made. It is can also be a very effective therapy to allow people to free themselves from their self limiting thoughts and beliefs and for them to have tools and strategies to manage their lives effectively.  Read more …

It can be particularly effective with anxiety as it looks to allow us to manage our thoughts, emotions and behaviour in a way that we’d like, rather than having anxious thoughts and feelings controlling our behaviour and emotions.  Some of the more common tools and techniques are –

Talking – By talking about what is happening and how we’re feeling it can help us gain a greater understanding and alleviates some of the negative feelings.

Challenging thoughts – The way we think can have a huge effect on how we feel and often our thoughts can seem automatic.  The more we repeat any thought pattern, the easier it becomes to keep repeating it to the point where it can be an automatic response.  By challenging thoughts, we can begin to change out Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATS) to Balanced Alternative Thoughts (BATS).

Challenging negative self beliefs – Often we can hold negative beliefs about ourselves (such as ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m unloveable’, ‘I’m unworthy’) that we continue to play out and reinforce time and time again.  This is because we find comfort and security in what is familiar, even if what is familiar is not pleasant or helpful.  By being aware of our beliefs, we can begin to challenge them and free ourselves from them.

Seeking self acceptance –If we can begin to accept that we’re ok, it can help with our anxieties.  We often judge ourselves or compare ourselves to others negatively or unrealistically.  If we can accept ourselves, this can help us view the world in a fairer way where we feel ok about ourselves.

Graded exposure – this is gradually exposing yourself to the fear.  By taking the smallest of steps to begin with, you begin to become more and more comfortable with your fear.  For example, if you have a phobic response to spiders, graded exposure may begin with you looking at cartoon pictures of spiders and having them near you.  The next step may be drawing spiders, then looking at photos and so on, until you feel comfortable with a spider being visible in the same room.  It’s very important for you to define the steps you want to take and a good therapist will be able to guide you with suggestions to ensure the steps aren’t too much.

Behavioural experiments – experimenting with new ways of being – basically trying out new things to see if they fit for you.

The list of tools and techniques above are some of the main CBT interventions and any therapeutic intervention should be applied to the individual to fit with their needs.  Therefore, as you read this, some may be useful to you and others may not, therefore the above list cannot represent a prescribed therapy as all therapy is personal to the unique individual.

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