Anxiety disorders are characterized by one or many of these symptoms: incapacitating phobia, panic attacks, unrelenting worries and obsessive thoughts. There are many treatments to reduce the symptoms or stop a person from living in constant anxiety and fear. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy, in particular, are beneficial for those suffering from anxiety disorders. With the help of these therapies, a person can control his or her worrisome thoughts, conquer fears and manage anxiety levels.
Therapies are the best and the most effective ways of treating anxiety disorders because unlike medication, it goes beyond than just treating the symptoms of the problem. Below are some of the health benefits of undergoing therapies.
- Promotes relaxation;
- Change in the individual’s perspective on different situations on a more positive note;
- Help a person trace the underlying causes of his or her worries and fears; and
- Assist one in developing better coping and problem-solving skills.
It is essential for therapists to tailor the therapy according to the specific symptoms and diagnosis because anxiety disorders may differ from each other. For example, people suffering from general anxiety disorders will receive different treatment compared to those with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Usually, therapies used for anxiety conditions are short term, and many people show visible improvements after 8 to 10 therapy sessions. But the length of treatment will vary based on the severity and type of anxiety disorder. “The quality of the therapeutic relationship has been linked to outcomes before, but we wanted to see whether it really causes the changes in wellbeing occurring during therapy.” says Lucy Goldsmith, a PhD.
Anxiety therapies may be used alone or together with other treatment modalities to combat specific symptoms. It can be conducted either in a one-on-one meeting or taken as group sessions.
Why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
According to Suma Chand, PhD, “a person who has panic disorder is very avoidant of many situations that could trigger [their] panic symptoms.” With that people suffering from anxiety disorders are often recommended to undergo cognitive behavioral therapy. Many can prove that it is instrumental in treating general anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias, among many anxiety disorders. It focuses more on the abnormalities in one’s perspective of the world and own self. It has two main components:
- Cognitive therapy focuses on the negative cognitions, or thoughts, which creates the anxiety.
- Behavior therapy focuses on the ways a person reacts to stimuli that trigger anxiety.
Thought Challenging In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Thought challenging or cognitive restructuring is a therapeutic process in which a person identifies and challenges its irrational thoughts that contribute to his/her anxiety, and replaces them with more positive, realistic ideas and solutions.
It involves three steps:
- Identifying One’s Negative Thoughts. A person suffering from anxiety disorders reacts to certain situations as something more dangerous than they are. For example, an individual with a germ phobia will most likely not to handshake with other people because they consider the gesture as life-threatening. Other people not suffering from anxiety can say that this is an irrational fear but a person having this condition may find difficulty in identifying it. One strategy is to question one’s self on the thoughts lingering on his/her mind that triggers his/her anxiety.
- Challenging One’s Negative Thoughts. In this step, a person will evaluate the anxiety-provoking thoughts with the help of a therapist. It will include questioning the identified evidence for one’s frightening thoughts, analyzing useless beliefs, and trying out the reality of negative predictions.
- Replacing Negative Thoughts With Realistic Thoughts. Once a person already identified the irrational predictions and harmful distortions in his/her anxious thoughts, he/she can now replace them with more positive and realistic thoughts. One’s therapist may formulate a calming statement that can be said to one’s self every time the person is facing or anticipating a situation that leads to anxiety.
“Avoidance may provide temporary relief. But it also maintains the anxiety long term and creates a vicious cycle of further avoidance,” said Kevin Chapman, Ph.D, a psychologist who specializes in evidence-based treatment for anxiety and related disorders. But together with therapies, persons who are undergoing treatments for their mental health issues benefit more and can progress easily towards recovery if supported by families and friends. In therapies, families, significant others, and those who are close to the person are also provided with health teachings concerning the mental diagnosis to ensure awareness and understanding of the person.