Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is highly effective in reducing anxiety and depression. It is an evidence-based treatment approach which teaches you strategies to help you recognize and challenge thoughts which are irrational and out of proportion to thoughts one might have when anxiety and depression are less pronounced in your life.
Anxiety and depression unchecked, can impair one’s ability to function productively. CBT teaches you new ways of thinking and behaving. Thoughts, feelings and behaviors are inter-connected so that if you change one, it has an effect on the other two. For example, if you change the way you think and behave, you can also change the way you feel.
So, what is CBT?
CBT focuses on the here and now — the present. It looks less at what drives your symptoms and more specifically at what you are struggling with right now. Often, knowing why you have anxiety is not enough to help to reduce it.
An example of this might be — imagine that you are terrified by spiders and every time you see one you run away and become highly anxious. You are convinced that most spiders are poisonous and that if bitten, you will suffer terribly. If you really think about why you are so afraid of spiders, you might remember that as a child you were bite by one and that it hurt. This may in fact be the cause of your anxiety about spiders, but knowing this, will not change the fact that you remain terrified of spiders.
CBT helps you practically face your fears through exposures so that you gradually learn how to reduce the anxiety associated with feared situations objects. Exposure is not dangerous and will not make the situation worse. It will in fact naturally lessen your anxiety.
CBT is structured, collaborative and emphasizes the importance of homework.
Doing homework helps you to practice the new strategies you are learning and apply them to your daily life. Learning effective ways to manage anxiety is like developing a new healthy habit, the more you practice, the more likely it becomes a part of your regular life and routine. The good news is that the more you use your CBT skills, the easier and more automatic it gets and the better you become at managing anxiety and depression.
CBT is not supposed to be a life long process. Rather you are learning to become your own therapist. Once you learn new skills, had a chance to master them and see positive changes in your life, it will be time for you to end therapy and continue managing your anxiety on your own.