COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY FOR TREATING ANXIETY
There are a number of anxiety disorders the symptoms of which differ considerably. NICE guidelines recommend CBT for treating a range of anxiety disorders including, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Phobias, Panic Disorder with and without agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Depression and Health Anxiety.
What can I expect from CBT therapy for anxiety?
An initial assessment will be completed by the therapist in order that they are able to help identify the relevant symptoms.
Treatment usually begins by providing the patient with information about the disorder and why it is likely to be occurring. Learning about your problem usually brings some comfort as you begin to realise that you aren’t alone and that there are helpful ways of overcoming your anxiety disorder.
Anxiety can have a profound effect on how we feel physically. Often the therapist will work with you helping you develop skills to reduce the physical aspects. This can include using Progressive Muscle Relaxation which involves a systematically tensing and relaxing the muscles groups throughout your body. The more this strategy is practised the more benefit you will gain from the exercise.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works from the premise that unhelpful thinking can have a major impact on how we feel. Your CBT therapist will help you to Identify the unhelpful thoughts. Once you develop the skill of identifying your negative thought patterns, you will examine the thoughts with your therapist and work out whether they are realistic, accurate and helpful. Just because we think something doesn’t mean it is true!! Finally, after identifying and challenging the thoughts you and your therapist will reach a more balanced accurate and realistic way of understanding the situation.
Anxiety occurs when we are afraid of something. Anxiety can result from any number of situations whether that’s a deadline, a bill, a thought, a spider, illness, the outside world, dirt, or public speaking. When we feel anxiety about something it is normal that we want to avoid it.
Unfortunately, whilst this avoidance helps us feel better in the short term, it means that our levels of fear are maintained as we never learn that the things that frighten us aren’t as bad as we believe them to be.
In CBT part of the treatment for anxiety disorders is exposure. CBT therapists see exposure as the most important way of learning to manage your anxiety. Exposure may seem frightening in its self and some people may avoid CBT as a result. However, exposure is done in a gradual and supported way, where by you take the lead in deciding what and how far you are willing to go in each exposure exercise. That said there will be gentle persuasion by the therapist who may become involved in the exposure themselves. Generally, you will start with situations that cause minimal anxiety and work towards the situations that cause you the most.
It is important that you face your fears on a regular basis so that your fears fade quickly. The more you do it the sooner you will begin to feel better.
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