What is cognitive behavioral therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT is a type of mental health treatment that helps people change their thoughts so that their emotions can change in turn. CBT relies on restructuring and reframing thoughts. The technique can be vital if you live with an anxiety disorder. When you have anxiety, you can become easily overwhelmed or jump to the worst conclusion. One of the things that CBT helps us do is avoid catastrophizing, which is leaping to a catastrophic conclusion. CBT is a game-changer for those who live with panic, depression, and anxiety as well as many people with eating disorders, substance use disorder, or other mental health conditions. Anxiety can be paralyzing, and CBT can help alleviate some of that stress.
CBT’s core principles
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, helps people reframe their negative thought patterns. One of the things that is important to recognize when undergoing CBT is the underlying issues behind some of your repetitive, negative thoughts. For example, if you believe that you’re a bad friend, you’ll likely have repetitive, negative thoughts about impacting your friends or hurting their feelings. CBT will help you question those thoughts and identify where they came from. Let’s say that you’re in a situation where you hurt your friend’s feelings; your automatic thought, which you’ve discussed in CBT, is “I’m a bad friend.” CBT focuses on cognitive distortions and evaluating the evidence behind these negative thought patterns, so you might ask yourself what has led you to believe that this is true, which would be that you hurt your friend’s feelings. It would be jumping to conclusions because, in reality, hurting your friend’s feelings was likely a mistake and something you can correct. Jumping to the conclusion that you’re a bad friend is also an example of black and white thinking. You see things one way, and can’t deviate from that perspective. With Black and white thinking, you believe that something is all good or all bad, which is another core idea that you can focus on in CBT. People with anxiety often ruminate over what other people think about them; this is something that you can focus on in a CBT session with a therapist.
Facing your fears
Many people work on facing their fears in CBT. With a CBT therapist, you can discuss things that you’re afraid of, and your therapist will give you homework that’ll help you continue to work on this issue outside of therapy. People with generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, or other mental health conditions, sometimes struggle with intrusive thoughts. CBT offers a lot of different exercises that can help you to combat these intrusive thoughts and internalize that thoughts aren’t gospel and that they aren’t necessarily reality; they’re just thoughts, and you don’t need to listen to the thoughts that don’t serve you or aren’t good for you. Similarly, feelings are feedback. You don’t have to be ruled by negative emotions; you can work to understand them and see where they came from so that you can better manage the way that your feelings affect you and your life.
Why CBT works with anxiety and depression
Again, people with anxiety disorders tend to ruminate or obsess about negative thoughts. CBT can help you learn to recognize your thoughts as just that – thoughts – rather than something that defines reality or who you are. It can also help with Depression because when someone is depressed, they feel paralyzed. CBT can help lift that stagnation paralysis by helping people understand that they have some role in being able to change their thoughts and empowering them to believe that they can do the things that Depression has been getting in the way of.
Benefitting from CBT
Many people can get gratification from CBT and its subtypes. CBT is not just for people with anxiety and depression; you may also benefit from CBT if you have PTSD, phobias, OCD, struggles with anger, or a variety of other concerns. Learning to understand how your thoughts and patterns affect your daily life and relationships can be extremely powerful. Whether you’re working with an online therapist or someone in your local area, CBT can help you heal.